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290 

Legge 

Forerunners and rivals of 

290 LJlf v.l 61*. 

Legge 

Forerunners and rivals of 

Christianity 




KANSAS CITY, MO PUBLIC LIBRARY 




MAI AUG2U989 



FORERUNNERS AND RIVALS 
OF CHRISTIANITY 



CAMBBIDGE UNIVEBSITY PBESS 

C. F. CLAY, MANAGER 
loritam; EETTEB LANE, B.C. 
100 PEINCES STBEET 




fefo lorfe: G. E KJTNAM'S SONS 
ontt Calcutta: 3MACMILLAN AND CO., LTD. 
f ownta: J, M. DENT AND SONS, LTD. 

; THE MAETJZEN-KABTJSHIKI^AISHA 



FORERUNNERS AND RIVALS 
OF CHRISTIANITY 

BEING 
STUDIES IN RELIGIOUS HISTORY 

FROM 330 B.C. TO 330 A.D. 



BY 

F. LEGGE, F.S.A. 

(Honorary) Foreign Secretary Society of Biblical Archaeology, 

Member of Council Royal Asiatic Society, 
Member of Committee Egypt Exploration Fund, &c. 



"The ghosts of words and dusty dreams" 
"Old memories, faiths infirm and dead" 

SWINBURNE, FSlise. 



IN TWO VOLUMES 
VOL. I 



Cambridge : 
at the University Press 



CamitQrge: 

HUNTED BY JOHN GUY, WU. 

AT THE TJNIVEESITT FRESS 



PREFACE 

HpHE following pages are a modest attempt to bring before 
the public certain documents of great importance for 
the understanding of the growth and development of the 
Christian religion. They are not new, almost all of them 
having been translated at one time or another into English, 
French, German, or Italian: but they are all practically 
unknown save to scholars, are all fragmentary, and with 
hardly an exception, are difficult to understand without a 
running commentary. In these circumstances, I have ventured 
to follow, not for the first time, the advice given by Sir G-aston 
Maspero to his pupils in one of his luminous lectures at the 
College de France. "If" said in effect that great master of 
archaeology, "you find yourselves in the presence of scattered 
and diverse examples of any monument you cannot understand 
funerary cones, amulets of unusual form, hypocephali, or 
anything else make a collection of them. Search museums, 
journals of Egyptology, proceedings of learned societies, until 
you think they have no more novelties of the kind to offer you. 
Then put those you have collected side by side and study them. 
The features they have in common will then readily appear and 
in a little time you will find that you will perceive not only the 
use of the objects in question, but also the history of their 
development, their connexion with each other, and their 
relative dates," This has been the end aimed at in this book; 
and although, like most aims in this world, it has not been 
perfectly achieved, it may, I think, be said with confidence 



vi Preface 

that these documents explain and supplement one another in 
a remarkable degree, and that in the majority of cases sense 
can now be read into what at first sight seemed to be nonsense. 
As more fragments of the same kind come to light, also, one 
has fair reason to hope that those points which are still obscure 
may be made clear. 

The system of references adopted perhaps calls for some 
explanation. As I have no right to expect my readers to take 
what I say for gospel, I should have preferred to give my 
authority for every statement made by me in the text. But 
there are often many authorities supporting the same statement, 
and some discrimination between them was necessary unless 
these two volumes were to be swollen to an intolerable length. 
The same consideration for brevity, too, has often led me to 
quote at second or third hand rather than at first. Eeferences 
to well-known passages in the more widely read classical writers 
and Christian Fathers are not needed by scholarly readers, 
while to others they are difficult to check or verify. I have 
therefore deliberately and of choice preferred the less recondite 
sources to the more recondite, and have never hesitated to 
refer the reader to encyclopaedias, popular lectures, and the 
works avowedly addressed to the general public of writers 
like Kenan and Mahaffy, rather than to the sources from which 
they have themselves drawn their information. In so doing, 
however, I have never consciously failed to check the statement 
quoted with the original source, and to see, so far as in me lay, 
that it correctly represents its purport. A fairly long experience 
has convinced me that to many readers the "Apoll. Ehod. 
ac Nigid. Schust&c, p. H" and the "Clemens de div. serv. 
Su 20" dear to certain German professors and their English 
admirers mean very little, and to the greater public nothing 
at all. For the translations which appear in the text or notes 
I have gleaned from all sources, but, except where expressly 



Preface vil 

mentioned, I must personally accept all responsibility for them, 
and in cases in which any doubt seemed possible I have generally 
added the words of the original document. 

Finally, I have not attempted to impress my own opinion 
on my readers, but merely to give them the material on which 
they can form their own; and where I have found myself in 
doubt as to what the facts of the case really were, I have never 
scrupled to say so. This is not a counsel of perfection, but 
the one which on the whole seemed to me best. If by doing 
so I have succeeded in sending to the documents themselves 
a few readers hitherto ignorant of them, I shall think I have 
not wasted my time. 

F. LEGGE. 

6 GBAY'S INK SQUARE, 
July 1914. 



P.S. The outbreak of the war has caused the publication 
of this book to be postponed. I regret the delay the less that 
it has enabled me to make use of several works and studies 
which have appeared during the last twelve months. 

F. L 



EKRATA 

VOL. L 

p. 121, 1. 5, for Xerxes read Darius, 

p, 143, n. 4, for Prof. C. R. B. Weidmann read Prof. Carl Robert 

VOL. IL 

p. 18, n. 2, for cc. m, xxxi. Justin Martyr read cc. in, xxxi; Justin 

Martyr. 
p. 36, n. 1, for Isidore Loeb, La Oabbakjww, p. 587. F. Herman Eruger, 

La Grande Encydopddie, 8.v. Gnosticisme read Isidore Loeb, La 

Grande Encydopddie, s.v. La Cabbale juive; ibid. I\ Herman Krilger, 

s.v. Gnosticisme, 
p. 37, n. 1, for Thou the King, the Aeon of Aeons read Thou King, Aeon 

of Aeons, 
p. 38, n. 3, for Introduction (pp. xxxxiii) read Introduction (pp. ki 

bdii). 

p. 69, n. 3, for ratDt^n *M& HEWn. 
p. 72, 1. 4, for boundless read thoughtless, 
p. 102, 1. 22, for Ecclesiasticis read Ecclesiasticus. 
p. 129, n. 3, for Canons read Canon, 
p. 146,1. 17, for its read! Its. 
p. 146, n. 2, for the Kve Words, translated in the text read the five 

words translated in the text. 
p. 166, n, 2, for 18 Eons read 18 Aeons. 
p. 174, 1 1, for die read dies. 
p. 183, L 10, for Booh read Texts, 
p. 200, 1. 10, for Pistis Sophia read Texts of the Saviour. 
p. 338, n. 2, for Journal des Savants read Journal des 8avan$. 



CONTENTS 

TABLE OF DATES Pages xiii-xxvii 

BOOKS AND ARTICLES REFERRED TO . . xxviii-xlviii 

INTRODUCTION 

Importance of study of Christian origins Cause of popular miscon- 
ceptions on the subject Change of standpoint with progress of science of 
religionsDefinition of science and religionApparent dilemma of ortho- 
doxChristianity seems to follow evolutionary law like other faiths 
Rivals of infant Christianity Judaism, classical Paganism, and philo- 
sophy ruled ou1> Real competitors, Oriental religions, Gnosticism, and 
Manichaeism Certain features common to surviving documents of all 
these faiths- Possibility of common origin Question insoluble till origin 
and dates of Zoroastrianism ascertained . , . Pages xlix-lxiii 

CHAPTEB I 

THE CONQUESTS OF ALEXANDER 

The extent of the Persian Empire and its government Alexander's 
aim, the marriage of Europe and Asia, attained after his death Greek 
becomes common language Importance of this for History of Religions 
Ideas of antiquity about godsMonotheism of philosophers, and of 
Hebrew Prophets Aristotle's dictum that religion follows form of temporal 
government Alexander, perfect type of monarch Adoption of mon- 
archical government by his Successors Identification of Greek with 
barbarian gods Worship of Syrian and other foreign gods in Athens 
Increase of foreign worships after Alexander Deification of Alexander 
and his Successors leads to Euhemerism Change of religious views 
among Greeks Age of innovation in religion The missions of Asoka 
Religious associations in Greece, their composition and influence Low 
character of their priests and members Alexander of Abonoteichos 

Summary * , 1-27 



x Contents 

CHAPTER II 

THE ALEXANDRIAN DIVINITIES 

Alexander's Egypt and the policy of the Ptolemies The Egyptian 
priesthoods and their disastrous rule Popularity of worship of Osiris 
Legend of Osiris according to Plutarch Its composite character, totem- 
istic and historical elements The Dying God of the Eastern Mediter- 
ranean The Eleusinian Mysteries Resemblance of Eleusis legend to 
Osirian Ptolemy's new religion The Alexandrian triad, Serapis, Isis, 
and Horus Refusal of Egyptians to accept Ptolemy's religion Its 
success in the West culminates under the Antonines Causes of its 
triumph Its monarchical principle, or monotheistic pantheismThe 
Fatherhood of God Hope for future life The Mysteries of the Alex- 
andrian Religion described Degrees of initiation Popular and external 
Ceremonies: Daily Services in Temples, Opening, and Closing Other 
Ceremonies : The Herculaneum Frescoes Adoration of the Sacred Water 
The Finding of Osiris The Ship of Isis Modern character of these 
Festivals The Isiao Priesthood Recluses of Serapeum Decline of 
Alexandrian Religion with rise of Christianity Superiority of Christianity 
Last days of Alexandrian Religion Destruction of Serapeum at 
Alexandria in 391 A.B. Borrowings of Christianity from Alexandrian 
Religion Ritual, Worship of Virgin, and Monachism Likeness of 
sacramental usages And, more doubtfully, of doctrines Transition 
probably effected through Gnostic heresies .... 28-89 

CHAPTER III 

THE ORIGIN OF GNOSTICISM 

Religion and Magic Knowledge chief necessity in magic Origin of 
myths, cosmogonies, and apocalypses Spells and charms Examples from 
Magic Papyri, Sumerian invocation of Persephone, etc. Letter of Nopliotes 
to Psammeticus with process of lecanomancy ~ Egyptian magicians deal 
with devils Polyglot spell of Alleius Craeonius invokes Jehovah with 
heathen gods Spread of magic in late Pagan and early Christian centuries 
Magic ceremonies not all imposture Hypnotism employed in magio 
Influence of these ideas on evolution of Gnostic sects -Leads to develop- 
ment of ritual in worship, especially in Egypt- Effect of Gnostic ideas 
if not checked Their early appearance in Greece The riwo of astrology-- 
Its origin in Babylonia Introduces new ideas in religion Astrological 
tablets in Assurbanipal's library Construction of calendar System of 
correspondences Planetary influence Change in astrology when united 
to Greek mathematics Religion and Magic alike adopt astral theories 
Increased importance of Sun worship Impulse given by astral theories to 
Gnosticism Entry into it of predestinarian ideas 90-120 



Contents xi 



CHAPTER IV 

PRE-CHRISTIAN GNOSTICS: THE ORPHICI 

The Orphic poems and the Pythagoreans The Orphic Theology and 
Legend of Dionysos Orphics first to connect this with man's fate in next 
world Asceticism of Orphic ideal Initiation a substitute for asceticism 
Gold Plates of Italian Orphics and their likeness to Egyptian funerary 
literature Orphic propaganda at first confined to Rhapsodists Orphics 
seize upon worships of foreign gods Demosthenes' oration against 
Aeschines and its explanation Orphics probably form Masi and other 
religious associations The Orpheotelestae, wandering charlatans The 
Orphic Hymns Hymns to Persephone and Dionysos and their explana- 
tion Influence of Orphics upon later religions Orphism leads to 
spread of syncretism, magic, and external conformity Summary of 
Orphism and its influence upon Gnosticism .... 121-148 



CHAPTER V 

PRE-CHRISTIAN GNOSTICS: THE ESSENES 

Contrast between religious ideas of Greeks and Jews Fate of Jews 
under Alexander's Successors and Maccabaean Wars Josephus' account 
of the Essenes Its accuracy shown by Philo and others Improbable 
views as to their origin Essenes essentially Gnostics Their secret teaching 
The Enochian Apocalypses described The Messianic delusions of the 
Jews in Roman times Books of Enoch, etc. Essene method of in- 
terpreting Scripture, isopsephism, and Cabala later history of Essenes 
Survival of their exegetical methods among Gnostics . 149-171 



CHAPTER VI 

PRE-CHRISTIAN GNOSTICS: SIMON MAGUS 

Adherence of Jews to Mosaic Law Inconvenience of this to rich, and 
necessity for compromise between Judaism and Hellenism System of 
Philo Judaeus and formation of secret sects among Jews Simon Magus 
in the New Testament Position of Samaritans tevvp, Christ intermediate 
between Jews and heathen Account of Simon in Clementines untrust- 
worthy Hippolytus' quotations from the Great Announcement Simon's 
First Cause and Six Roots Sis system of correspondences or paradigms 



xii Contents 

His bisexual Deity Parallels between systems of Simon and of OrpMcs 
Simon's account of creation of man Simon's views on origin of evil and 
redemption not clear Contradiction among Fathers as to Simon's doctrines 
Simon's redemption through union of sexes and Platonic affinity 
Simon's view of end of world Later history of Simon's sect; their 
indifference in external matters and changes Fathers' ascription of all 
subsequent heresy to borrowing from Simon examined and partly con- 
firmed 172-202 



TABLE OF DATES 

N.B. The dates which follow are only approximate, no attempt 
having here been made to harmonize the system of chronology lately 
adopted by the professors of the Berlin school with those formerly in use. 
For the dates of the reigns of the Egyptian and Asiatic Successors of 
Alexander, I have mainly relied upon the excellent work of M- Bouch6- 
Leclercq as given in his French version of Droysen's Hettenismus, his 
Histoire dea Lagides and (especially) his Histoire des S&eucides, the second 
volume of which, containing the chronological tables, maps, and indexes, 
has appeared at the close of this year (1914). The dates of the Parthian 
and Bactrian kings are given with all reserve and are in effect conjectures 
based on the slipshod statements of compilers like Justin, Quintus Curtius, 
and Trogus Pompeius. For the Parthian dates I have followed, though 
without any confidence in its accuracy, the chronology of Prof. Eduard 
Meyer, and for the Bactrian, those given in Mr H. C. BawHnson's Bactria. 
The dates in Vol. H, which deals with the centuries after Christ, are 
for the most part fairly well ascertained, and those given in Prof. Bury's 
edition of Gibbon have been used wherever possible. For matters not 
mentioned in Gibbon, such as the lives of the obscurer Christian Fathers 
and leaders of sects, recourse has generally been had to Smith and Wace's 
Dictionary of Christian Biography and other books of the kind. The only 
serious discrepancy here noticeable arises from the habit still prevalent 
among certain Continental writers of beginning the Christian Era four 
years earlier than others, so as to increase all subsequent dates by 4. Thus 
M. Cumont, in his Myskbres de Mithra and elsewhere, invariably gives the 
date of the Camuntum inscription proclaiming Mithras the Protector of 
the Roman Empire, as 307 A.D., although he asserts that the lovii et 
Hervtdi rdigiosissimi Augusti responsible for the inscription are Diocletian 
and Galerius, Diocletian, however, resigned the purple, and retired into 
private life in the year 305 A.IX, by the reckoning of Prof. Bury and others, 
and it is plain therefore that M. Cumont puts the date too far forward 
according to our ideas. To bring it into line, I have therefore ventured to 
alter the date of the inscription quoted by him to 304 A.D., which would 
moreover coincide with the persecution of the Christians, which he thinks 
may have owed some of its severity to the rivalry of the Mithraic faith. 
The same procedure has been followed in one or two other cases. 



xiv Table of Dates 

B.C. 

336. Accession of Alexander. 

340 to 260. Zeno of Citium (founder of Stoic school) nourished. 

340 to 288. Pyrrho of Elis flourished. 

334 to 322. Aristotle and first Peripatetic School nourished. 

331. Foundation of Alexandria. 

Alexander transports many Jews to Alexandria and gives them 

equal rights "with Macedonians. 
330. Death of Darius. 
326. Alexander conquers Punjab. 

324. Alexander at Susa celebrates marriage of Europe and Asia. 
323. Death of Alexander and first division of Empire. 

Ptolemy, son of Lagos, made satrap of Egypt, 
321. Second division of Alexander's Empire at Triparadisus. 
320, Ptolemy captures Jerusalem and transports many Jews to Alexandria. 
Circa 316. Euhemerus of Messene flourished. 
312. Ptolemy and Seleucus defeat Demetrius Poliorcetes at Gaza. 

Ptolemy seizes Syria, but evacuates it when defeated by Demetrius 

near Myontes. 

Many Jews voluntarily emigrate to Egypt. 
312. Seleucus conquers Media and Persia, and enters Babylon in triumph* 

Beginning of Seleucid Era. 
310. Aatigonus Monopthalmos by treaty abandons Eastern Provinces to 

Seleucus. 
307. Demetrius Poliorcetes at Athens. 

Demetrius of Phalerum leaves Athens for Alexandria. 
Probable foundation of Museum. 
306 to 270. Epicurus flourished. 

306. Ptolemy I Soter proclaims himself King of Egypt. 
302. Coalition against Antigonus, Ptolemy invades Syria,, and Lysi- 

machus Asia Minor, 
301. Battle of Ipsus, and further division of Empire between Seleuous, 

Lysimachus, and Cassander. 

300 to 220. Cleanthus of Assos (Stoic philosopher) flourished. 
298. Cession of Valley of Indus by Seleucus to Chandragupta. 
297. Destruction of Samaria by Demetrius Poliorcetes, 
294. Seleucus transports many Jews from Babylon to Antiooh and other 

Syrian cities. 

293. Many Jewish colonies founded in Cyreae and Libya. 
292. Seleucus gives his wife Stratonic and the Eastern Provinces to his 

son Antiochus. 
288. Coalition against Demetrius Poliorcetes. 

Accession of Bindusara (Amitrochates) to Ohandraptpta/s Indian 

Kingdom. 
283* Accession of Ptolem^r II Philadelphia 



Table of Dates xv 

B.C. 

283. Demetrius Polioreetes dies a prisoner in the hands of Seieucus. 
282. Seieucus conquers Asia Minor from Lysimachus. 
281. Lysimachus defeated and slain at Corupedion. 

Accession of Antiochus I Soter on assassination of Seieucus. 
280.? Establishment of Greek worship of Serapis, Isis, and Horus at 

Alexandria. 

280 to 207. Chrysippus of Soli (Stoic philosopher) flourished. 
280. Pyrrhus invades Italy. 

Invasion of Thrace by Celtic tribes. 
278. Pyrrhus' campaign in Italy. 
277. Settlement of Celtic tribes (Galatae) in Asia. 
276. Translation of Pentateuch into Greek by order of Ptolemy Phil- 

adelphus. 
274. First Syrian War. Ptolemy Philadelphus against Antiochus Soter 

and Magas of Cyrene. 

273. Ptolemy Philadelphus sends embassy to Borne to conclude alliance. 
265, Accession of Asoka, grandson of Chandragupta. 
264. Asoka's missions to Greek Kings. 

First Punic War. 

261. Accession of Antiochus II Theos. 

258. Second Syrian War. Ptolemy Philadelphus against Antiochus Theos. 
252. Diodotus revolts against Antiochus Theos and founds Kingdom of 

Bactria. 

250. Association of Greek Sarapiasts at Athens. 
249. Arsaces revolts against Antiochus Theos and founds Arsacid Kingdom 

of Parthia. 

248. Accession of Tiridates on death of his brother, Arsaces of Parthia. 
247. Accession of Seieucus II CaUinicus on death of his father, Antiochus 

Theos. 
246. Accession of Ptolemy III'Euergetes. 

Third Syrian War. Ptolemy Etiergetes against Seieucus CaUinicus. 
245.? Accession of Diodotus II on death of his father, Diodotus of 

Bactria. 

244. Ptolemy Euergetes overruns Upper Asia as far as Susa. 
241. War between Seieucus CaUinicus and his brother Antiochus Hierax. 

Accession of Attalus as dynast of Pergamum. 
238. Ptolemy Euergetes and his wife Berenice II deified. Decree of 

Canopus. 

Attalus defeats Galatae and proclaims himseli King of Pergamum. 
230. Euthydemus of Magnesia seizes throne of Bactria on death of 

Diodotus II. 

229. Rome first intervenes in affairs of Greece on behalf of Acarnanians. 
226. Accession of Seieucus III Soter on death of his father, Seieucus 

CaUinicus. 



xvi Table of Dates 

B.C. 

225. Attains of Pergamum, "Friend of Rome," defeats Seleucus Soter 

and seizes Syrian Asia Minor. 
222. Accession of Antiochus III tho Great, on assassination of his father, 

Seleucus Soter. 
221. Accession of Ptolemy IV Philopator on death of his father, Ptolemy 

Euergetes. 
219. Antiochus the Great reconquers Asia Minor. 

Antiochus the Great captures Jerusalem from Ptolemy Philopator. 
217, Antiochus the Great transports 2,000 Jewish families from Babylon 

to Phrygia and Lydia. 
Ptolemy Philopator defeats Antiochus the Great at Eaphia and 

recaptures Jerusalem and Samaria. 
Second Punic War. 

216. Worship of Greek Sarapis and Isis established in Boeotia. 
211. Accession of Artabanus I to throne of Parthia on death of his father 

Tiridates. 
210. Artabanus of Parthia attacked by Antiochus tho Great, who besieges 

his capital, but finally makes alliance with him. 
First Macedonian War. Romans and AetoHans against Philip, 
205. Accession of Ptolemy V Epiphanes. 

Antiochus the Great seizes Palestine. 
204. Statue of Great Mother brought from Pessinus to Rome. 

Scopas reconquers Palestine for Ptolemy Epiphanes and Jews 

revolt to latter. 

200. Second Macedonian War. 
198. Antiochus the Great defeats Scopas at Panion and reoccupios 

Jerusalem and Samaria. 

197. Accession of Eumenes II on death of his father, Attalus of Per- 
gamum, 

Philip defeated by Romans at Cynoscephalae. 
196. Coronation of Ptolemy Epiphanes at Memphis. Rosetta Stone 

set up. 

19 L Ptolemy Epiphanes sends embassy to Rome to oiler alMance. 
190. Romans defeat Antiochus tho Great at Magnesia. 

Accession of Demetrius on death of Euthydemus of Baotria. 
Accession of Priapatius on death of Artabanus of Parthia* 
187. Accession of Seleucus IV Philopator on death of his father, Antioohus 

the Great. 

182. Accession of Ptolemy VI Eupator. 
181. Accession of Ptolemy VII PMlometor. 
180. Serapeum at Delos in existence, 
175. Demetrius of Bactria annexes Cabul and Punjab. 

Accession of Antiochus IV Epiphanes on death of hia brother, 
Seleucus Philopator. 



Table of Dates xvii 

B.C. 

175. Eucratides rebels against Demetrius of Bactria and seizes throne. 

173. Antiochus Epiphanes seizes Judaea and Coele-Syria. 

172. Third Macedonian War. 

171. Antiochus Epiphanes invades Egypt and defeats Ptolemy Philo- 

metor at Pelusium. 
170. Antiochus Epiphanes plunders Temple of Jerusalem. 

Ptolemy Philometor and Ptolemy Euergetes II made joint kings by 

Romans. 

Accession of Mithridates I to throne of Parthia. 
168. Antiochus Epiphanes' second invasion of Egypt stopped by Romans. 

Circle of Popilius Laena. 
166. Antiochus Epiphanes again pillages Temple and persecutes Jewish 

religion. 
Samaritans make peace with Antiochus Epiphanes and accept 

Hellenization. 

Revolt of Maccabees against Syria. 
164. Accession of Antiochus V Eupator on death of his father, Antiochus 

Epiphanes. 
162. Judas Maccabaeus besieged in Jerusalem by Lysias for Antiochus 

Eupator. Peace made on Philip's attempt to seize regency. 
Romans send embassy to Antiochus Eupator which compels him to 

burn his ships and kill his elephants. 
Demetrius escapes from Rome and invades Syria. 
161. Romans recognize Demetrius as King of Syria with title of Demetrius 

I Soter. 

Judas Maccabaeus sends embassy to Rome, is attacked by Demetrius 
Soter, and slain. Judaea, under his brother Jonathan, submits 
to Syria. 
Timarchos, Satrap of Media, and Ptolemy, dynast of Commagene, 

proclaim themselves Kings, and are recognized by Romans. 
160. Ptolemy Philometor expelled from Egypt by Euergetes II, but 

restored by Romans. 

Ptolemy, son of Glaucias, a recluse in Serapeum of Memphis. 
159. Accession of Attalus II Philadeiphus on death of his brother, 

Eumenes of Pergamum. 
154. Ptolemy Euergetes II made King of Cyrene. 

Foundation of Jewish Temple or Oneion at Leontopolis in Egypt. 
152. Alexander Bala, pretender to throne of Syria, recognized by Romans 

as son of Antiochus Epiphanes. 
151. Coalition of Egyptian and Asiatic Kings with Romans against 

Demetrius Soter of Syria. 

150. Demetrius Soter defeated and slain by coalition of Egyptian and 
Asiatic kings. Alexander Bala succeeds to throne of Syria, and 
marries Cleopatra Thea, daughter of Ptolemy Philometor. 
L. 6 



xviii Table of Dates 

B.C. 

149. Third Punic War. 

145. Ptolemy Philometor invades Syria and defeats Alexander Bala at 
Oenoparas. Ptolemy killed in battle and Alexander by Naba- 
thaeans. 
Accession of Ptolemy IX (Euergetes II) Physcon as sole king of 

Egypt. 

Accession of Demetrius II Nicator to throne of Syria. Civil war 
between Demetrius and Diodotus (Trypho) as regent for infant 
Antiochus VI Epiphanes Dionysos. 

144. Ptolemy Physcon expels philosophers from Museum. 
142. Simon Maccabaeus succeeds as High Priest Jonathan slain by Trypho. 

Simon Maccabaeus proclaims independence of Judaea. 
141. Simon Maccabaeus sends embassy to Romans who receive Jews as 

"Friends of Rome." 
140. Mithridates I of Parthia seizes part of Bactria, Media, Susiana, and 

Persia. 
139. Demetrius Nicator invades Parthia and is taken prisoner by 

Mithridates. 

Beginning of Era of Arsacides. 
Antiochus VI Epiphanes Dionysos murdered by Trypho, who is 

made King by army. 
138. < Accession of Attalus III Philometor on death of his father, Attalus II 

of Pergamum. 

Accession of Phraates II to throne of Parthia. 
137, Antiochus VII Sidetes, brother of Demetrius Nicator, takes throne 

of Syria. 

135. Antiochus Sidetes defeats Trypho, who commits suicide, at Apamea, 
John and Judas Maccabaeus, sons of Simon, defeat, at Modein, army 

of Antiochus Sidetes. 

Simon Maccabaeus assassinated by his son-in-law Ptolemy. 
John Hyrcanus succeeds his father Simon as High Priest, 
Hierocles, last Greek King of Bactria, after invasion of Sacae, 

transfers his capital to Sialk6t, 

Attalus of Pergamum bequeaths his kingdom to Romans. 
134. Siege of Jerusalem by Antiochus Sidetes. Jews made tributaries to 

Syria. 
130- Antiochus Sidetes invades Parthia and reconquers Babylonia and 

Media. 

Menander (the Milinda of Buddhists) Bang of Cabul and Punjab. 
129. John Hyrcanus sends embassy to Rome for help against Syria. 
Medes rebel against Antiochus Sidetes, who is defeated by Phraates II 

of Parthia and commits suicide. 

Restoration of Demetrius Nicator to throne of Syria, Phraates II 
of Parthia slain in battle against Scythians, 



Table of Dates xix 

B.C. 

129. Accession of Artabanus II of Parthia. 

126. Demetrius Mcator defeated and slain by pretender^ Alexander 

Zabina. 

125. Destruction of Samaria by John Hyrcanus. 
124. Accession of Mithridates II the Great on death of Artabanus II 

in battle against Tocharians. 

122. Accession of Antiochus VIII Grypus, son of Demetrius Mcator, 
who with the help of Egypt defeats and slays Alexander 
Zabina. 

120. Accession of Mithridates Eupator as King of Pontus. 
117. Accession of Cleopatra III and Ptolemy X Lathyrus. 

Civil war in Syria between Antiochus Grypus and Antiochus IX 
Cyzicenus, son of Antiochus Sidetes. Division of Syria between 
them. 
113. Antiochus Cyzicenus invades Judaea, and is ordered by Romans to 

withdraw. 
106. Accession of Ptolemy XI Alexander. 

Aristobulus succeeds his father, John Hyrcanus, as High Priest, and 

proclaims himself King. 

105. Municipality of Puteoli builds Serapeum. 
Aristobulus of Judaea annexes Iturea. 

Alexander Jannaeus succeeds, as King, his brother Aristobulus. 
98. Alexander Jannaeus, trying to annex Ptolemais and Gaza, is 

defeated by Ptolemy Lathyrus, then King of Cyprus. 
Alexander Jannaeus makes league with Cleopatra III, who compels 

Ptolemy to withdraw. 

96. Alexander Jannaeus captures Gaza and massacres inhabitants. 
Accession of Seleucus VI Epiphanes Nicator on assassination of his 

father, Antiochus Grypus. 
95. Antiochus X Pius, son of Antiochus Cyzicenus, defeats and slays 

Seleucus Epiphanes near Mopsuestia. 

94. Division of Syria. Antiochus Pius reigns in Upper Syria, Philip I 
and Demetrius HI Eucaerus, sons of Antiochus Grypus, in 
Coele-Syria. 

93. Antiochus Pius slain in battle against the Parthians in Commagene. 
Ariobarzanes, King of Cappadocia, expelled by Mithridates Eupator 

of Pontus, but reinstated by Romans under Sulla. 
89. Alexander Jannaeus crucifies 800 Pharisees at Bethome and restores 

peace in Judaea. 

88. Demetrius Eucaerus invades Judaea and defeats Alexander Jan- 
naeus at Sichem, but is taken prisoner by Parthians and dies in 
captivity. 

Interregnum in Parthia. 
First Mithridatic War. 

62 



xx Table of Dates 



B.C. 

87. Antiochus XII Dionysos, son of Antiochus Grypus, crowned King 

of Syria at Damascus. 
84. Sulla makes peace with Mithridates. 

Antiochus Dionysos defeated and slain at Motho by Aretas the 

Philhellene, King of Nabathaeans. 
83. Tigranes, King of Armenia, becomes King of Syria. 
82. Sulla dictator. 
81. Accession of Ptolemy XII Alexander II. 

Accession of Ptolemy XIII Auletcs. 

Circa 80. College of Pastophori of Greek Isis at Rome founded. 
79. Death of Alexander Jannaeus, and accession of his widow, Salome 

Alexandra. 
78. Death of Sulla. 
77. Tigranes builds Tigranocerta, and transports thither many peoples of 

different race. 
76. The Arsacid Sinatroces, captive among the Scyths, released by them 

to become Bang of Parthia. 
75. Second Mithridatic War. 
74. Mcomedes of Bithynia bequeaths his kingdom to Mithridate 

Eupator of Pontus. 
Third Mithridatic War. 
72. Mithridates," defeated by Lucullus, takes refuge with his son-in-law 

Tigranes. 

70. Accession of Phraates III of Parthia. 

69. Tigranes invades Palestine, but is bought off by Salome Alexandra, 
Tigranes defeated and Tigranocerta taken by Lucullus. 
Antiochus XIII Asiaticus, son of Antiochus Pius, made King of 

Syria. 
Death of Salome Alexandra, and accession of hor son Aristobulus 

as King, with John Hyrcanus II as High Priest. 
67. Pompey suppresses the Cilician pirates. Reported introduction of 

Mysteries of Mithras into Italy. 
66. Phraates III of Parthia, Friend of Borne, invadca Armenia. 

Tigranes submits to Pompey, and is allowed to retain Groat Armenia, 

Civil war in Palestine between Aristobulus and John Hyrcanus II. 

65. Siege of Jerusalem by Nabathaeans and Pharisees, raised by command 

of Ponapey's lieutenant Scaurus. 
64. Ariarathes, Bang of Oappadocia, receives from Bomans Lesser 

Armenia, Gordyene, and Sophene. 
Osrhoen and Edessa, made into separate kingdom under Arab 

prince Arianme, 

Syria becomes Roman province. 
63. Death of Mithridates Eupator. 
Death of Antiochus Asiaticua 



Table of Dates xxi 

B.O. 

61. Pompey captures Jerusalem, and puts an end to Maccabaean 

Kingdom. Aristobulus sent captive to Rome. 
Samaria and all forcibly Judaized communities regain their 

autonomy. 
58. Ptolemy Auletes, expelled from Egypt, flies to Rome. 

Statues of Isis at Rome thrown down by order of Consul, A. Gabinius. 
57. Alexander, son of Aristobulus of Judaea, rebels, and is defeated by 

Gabinius, Proconsul of Syria. 

56. Aristobulus escapes from Rome and heads new revolt in Judaea. 
55. Accession of Orodes I to throne of Parthia. 

Fresh revolt of Jews under Alexander suppressed by Gabinius, 

who makes Antipater the Idumean ruler of Judaea. 
Ptolemy Auletes restored to throne of Egypt by Gabinius. 
53. Crassus and Roman army defeated by Parthians at Carrhae. 
52. Fresh revolt of Jews suppressed by Cassius. 
51. Accession of Cleopatra VI and Ptolemy XIV. 
50. Temple of Isis at Rome destroyed by Consul, L. Aemilius Paulus. 
48. Julius Caesar and Cleopatra besieged in Alexandria by Egyptian 

rebels. Death of Ptolemy XIV. 

Temples of Isis near Capitol thrown down at bidding of augurs. 
47. Cleopatra made queen jointly with Ptolemy XV. 

Antipater and Jewish troops take part in raising of siege of 

Alexandria. 
Julius Caesar repeals Jewish tribute and liability to military service, 

and gives Jews religious liberty and self-government. 
John Hyrcanus II made hereditary ethnarch of Judaea. 
46. Herod, son of Antipater, enters Roman army and is made military 

governor of Coele-Syria. 

45. Death of Ptolemy XV. Cleopatra makes her son Caesarion co- 
regent with her as Ptolemy XVI. 
Hermaeus last Greek ruler in India. 
44. Assassination of Julius Caesar. 

Fresh revolt of Jews on Caesar's death suppressed by Cassius, who 

makes Herod Procurator of Coele-Syria. 
43. Triumvirs Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus decree temple to Isis and 

Serapis. 
42. Battle of Philippi and division of Roman world between Mark 

Antony and Octavian. 
41. Death of Antipater of Judaea. Mark Antony makes Herod and 

his brother Phasael joint tetrarchs under John Hyrcanus II. 
40. Pacorus, prince of Parthia, invades Palestine, and takes John 

Hyrcanus II and, Phasael away captive. 

39, Parthians driven out of Palestine by P. Ventidius Bassus. 
Herod proclaimed King of Judaea by Romans. 



ixii Table of Dates 

B.C. 

38. Caius Sossius, Legate of Syria, captures Jerusalem, and puts Herod 

on throne. 

31. Battle of Actium, Herod deserts Mark Antony. 
30. Herod makes submission to Octavian, and receives increase of 

territory. 

Death o Cleopatra and Caesarion. Egypt becomes Roman pro- 
vince. 

Octavian becomes Emperor with title of Augustus. 
28. Augustus orders all temples of Alexandrian gods outside Pomoerium. 
21. M. Vipsanius Agrippa, the consul, forbids celebration of Egyptian 

rites within 1 mile of Home. 
20. Phraates IV of Parthia sends Augustus his four sons as hostages, 

and returns Boman standards captured with Crassus. 
Herod rebuilds Temple of Jerusalem. 

4. Death of Herod. Fresh revolt of Jews suppressed by Varas. 
Augustus divides Herod's Kingdom between the tetrarchs Archelaus, 

Antipas, and Philip. 
A.D. 

2. Accession of Phraates V or Phraataces on murder of his father, 
Phraates IV of Parthia. 

5. Accession of Orodes II of Parthia. 

6. Archelaus deposed and banished. Judaea becomes a Roman 

province. 

8. Accession of Vonones I of Parthia, 
14. Accession of Tiberius. 
16. Vonones expelled from Parthia by Artabanus, King of Media. 

Artabanus makes war on Borne, and is in turn expelled, 
19. Expulsion of Jewish colony from Rome. 

Tiberius destroys Temple of Isis and throws statues into the Tiber. 
24. Death of Philip, Jewish tetrarch. 
26. Pontius Pilate appointed Procurator of Judaea. 
36.? John the Baptist put to death by Antipas. 

Interregnum in Parthia. Struggle between pretenders, Tiridates II, 

Cumianus, and Bardanes I* 
37. Accession of Caligula. 

Antipas defeated by Aretas, King of Nabathaeans, 

Agrippa receives Philip's tetraxchy with title of long. 

39. Antipas deposed and banished. His tetrarchy added to Agrippa's 

kingdom. 

4L Judaea added to Agrippa's kingdom. 
Accession of Claudius. 

44. Death of Agrippa, Cuspius Fadus made Procurator of Judaea. 

47. Tiberius Alexander (nephew of Pfrilo) succeeds Cuspiu as Pro- 
curator. 



Table of Dates xxiii 

A.B. 

47. Gotarzes, son of Artabanus of Media, having been expelled from 

Parthia by Ms brother Bardanes, retakes crown on Bardanes' 
death, 

48. Revolt of Jews. Tiberius Alexander replaced by Cumanus. 
Circa 50. Clement of Borne born: died about 95 A.D. 

51. Accession of Vonones II to throne of Parthia followed immediately 

by that of Vologeses I. 
War between Rome and Parthia. 
Temple of Isis at Rome rebuilt. 

52. Ummidius Quadratus, Legate of Syria, deposes Cumanus, and 

appoints Felix Procurator of Judaea. 

54. Accession of Nero. 

55. Nero makes worship of Greek Isis religio licita. 

60. Porcius Festus succeeds Felix as Procurator of Judaea. 

62. Death of Porcius. Albinus succeeds him. 
Persecution of Christians by Ananus, the High Priest. 
Martyrdom of James the Just. 

63. Vologeses I of Parthia, defeated by Corbulo, signs treaty of peace. 

64. Gessius Florus succeeds Albinus as Procurator of Judaea. 

66. Tiridates invested King of Armenia by Nero. 

Revolt of the Jews. Roman garrison of Jerusalem massacred 
after surrender. Cestius Gallus, Legate of Syria, attacks 
Jerusalem, but is beaten off. 

67. First Jewish War. Vespasian replaces Cestius as Legate. 

68. Accession of Galba. 

69. Accession of Otho. 

Otho appears in public in dress of priest of Isis. 
Domitian escapes from Capitol in similar dress. 
Accession of VitelHus. 

Vespasian consults oracle, and works miraculous cures, in Temple of 
Isis at Alexandria. 

70. Accession of Vespasian. 

Siege and sack of Jerusalem by Titus. Burning of Herod's Temple. 
70-107. St Ignatius flourished. 

72. Vespasian deposes Antiochus IV of Commagene, last of Seleucides. 
77. Accession of Vologeses II of Parthia. Many pretenders, some of 
whom reign concurrently with him till his death. 

79. Accession of Titus. 

80. Domitian rebuilds Temple of Isis which had been burned. 
Statius mentions Mithraic Tauroctony in his Thebaid 

8L Accession of Domitian. 

Circa 83. Earliest Mthraic Inscription known. 

96. Accession of Nerva. 

98. Accession of Trajan. 



xxiv Table of Dates 

A.D. 

Circa 100. Marcion born; died about 165. 

Menander, Simon Magus's successor, flourished. 
102. Earliest dated Mithraio Inscription by T. Claudius Livianus, 

Praetorian Prefect. 
113-117. War between Borne and Parthia, 

116. Revolt of Jews throughout East suppressed by Lucius Quietus. 

117, Accession of Hadrian. 

117-138. Basilides the Egyptian flourished. 

Circa 120. Hadrian places in his lararium images of Greek Serapis and 1m. 

120-160. Tatian flourished. 

121. Justin Martyr bom: martyred about 153, 

Circa 125. Saturninus of Antioch flourished. 

130. Hadrian rebuilds Jerusalem and names it AeMa CapitoMna. 

Circa 130. Apelles the Marcionite bora: died about 180. 

132. Bevolt of Jews, under the Messiah Bar Cochba, and War of Ex- 
termination. 

138. Accession of Antoninus Pius. 

138-160. Valentinus the Gnostic flourished. 

Circa 140. Cerdo the Syrian flourished. 

147. Irenaeus of Lyons born: died about 202. 

Vologeses III restores Parthian Kingdom, and collects books of 
Avesta. 

150. Tertullian born: died about 220 A.D. 

Circa 150. Marcus the magician flourished. 
Hermas Pastor appears. 

155. Clement of Alexandria born: died about 211. 

Bardesanes or Ibn Daisan born: died about 223. 

162. War between Borne and Parthia. Parthian Kings substitute 
Aramaic for Greek on their coins. 

164, Destruction of Parthian capital, Seleucia on tho Tigris, by ATidias 
Oassius. 

170. Heracleon the Valentinian bom: died about 210. 

Circa 170. Lucian the Marcionite flourished. 
Ptolemy the Valentinian flourished. 

170-183, Theophttus of Antioch flourished* 

179. Pantaenus founds Christian school at Alexandria. 

180. Accession of Commodus. 

185. Origen of Alexandria born: died about 253, 

19 L Accession, of Vologeses IV to throne of Parthia. 

193. Accession of Pertrnaic. Murder of Pertinaac, and sale of Empire by 

Praetorians to Didius Julianus. 
Accession of Septimius Severus. 
195. War between Borne and Parthia. 
Circa 200. Axiomous the Valentinian flourished. 



Table of Dates xxv 

A.B. 

209. Accession, of Artabanus IV of Parthia. 
211. Accession of Caracalla and Geta. 

216. Birth of Manes: died 275. 

War between Rome and Partbia. 

217. Accession of Macrinus. 
219. Accession of Heliogabalus. 

221. Alexander Severus proclaimed Caesar. 

222. Accession of Alexander Severus. 
War between Rome and Parthia. 

Circa 222. Hippolytus of Porta Romana flourished. 

226. Ardeshir, son of Sassan, conquers Artabanus IV of Parthia, and 

founds Sassanid dynasty of Persia. 
230. War between Rome and Persia. 
235. Accession of Maximin. 

Persecution of Christians. 
238. Accession and death of the two Gordians. 

Maximus and Balbinus proclaimed Emperors with Gordian III as 
Caesar, but are murdered by Praetorians. 

Accession of Gordian III. 

Manes begins to teach. 

24 1 . Accession of Sapor ( Shapur ) I of Persia on death of his father Ardeshir. 

242. War between Rome and Persia. 
244. Accession of Philip the Arabian. 

246. M. Julius Philippus proclaimed Augustus jointly with his father, 

Philip the Arabian. 
249. Accession of Decius. 

Persecution of Christians. 
251. Accession of Gallus. 

253. Accession of Valerian. 

GalKenus proclaimed Augustus jointly with his 'father Valerian. 

254. First appearance of JVanks, who attack Rhine and invade Spain and 

Africa. 
260. War between Rome and Persia. 

Valerian taken prisoner by Sapor, and dies in captivity. 
260-268. Reign of Gallienus and the Thirty Tyrants. 

Right of Church to hold property recognized. 
268. Accession of Claudius. 
270. Accession of Aurelian. 

St Anthony introduces monachism into Church. 

272. Accession of Hormisdas (Ormuz) I of Persia. 

273. Aurelian captures Palmyra, and puts an end to Zenobia's Kingdom. 
Aurelian decides case of Paul of Sanaosata, and affirms primacy of 

Roman Church. 
273. Accession of Varanes (Bahram) I of Persia. 



xxvi Table of Dates 

A.D. 

275. Manes put to death by Varanes I. 
Accession of Tacitus. 

276. Accession of Varanes II of Persia. 
Accession of Probus. 

282. Accession of Carus. 

283. Carinus proclaimed Augustus jointly with his father Carus. 

284. Numerian proclaimed Augustus jointly with his brother Carinus on 

death of Carus. 
Accession of Diocletian. 

286. Maximian proclaimed Augustus jointly with Diocletian. 

287. Edict of Diocletian against Manichaeans. Teachers to be burned: 

Hearers' goods to be confiscated. 

292. Constantius Chlorus and Galerius proclaimed Caesars under the 

two Augusti. 

293. Accession of Varanes III of Persia followed by that of Narses. 
296. War between Eome and Persia. 

Circa 300. Alexander of Lycopolis flourished. 

302. Accession of Hormisdas II of Persia. 

303. Persecution of Christians. Era of Martyrs. 

304. Mithras declared at Carnuntum Protector of Roman Empire. 

305. Abdication of Diocletian and Maximian. 
Constantius Chlorus and Galerius become Augusti. 
Maximin and Severus proclaimed Caesars. 

306. Death of Constantius Chlorus. Constantine proclaimed Augustus by 

array, but allowed title of Caesar only by Galerius. 
Severus proclaimed Augustus in place of Constantius Chlorus. 
Maximian and Maxentius, his son, rebel. 

307. Severus, besieged in Ravenna by Maximian, surrenders and commits 

suicide. 
Maximian gives his daughter Fausta to Constantine, and proclaims 

him Augustus jointly with himself. 
War of Augusti, Maximian, Maxentius, and Constantine, against 

Galerius, who proclaims Licinius and Maximin Augusti jointly 

with himself. 

308. Maximian plots against Constantine, who puts him to death. 
Ephrem Syrus born: died 373, 

310. Accession of Sapor II of Persia. 

311. Death of Galerius; Licinius and Maximin divide Eastern provinces 

between them. 

312. War between Constantine and Maxentius, who is defeated at Twin, 

Verona, and Saxa Bubra, and slain. 
Edict of Toleration by Constantine and Licinius. 

313. Maximin declares war against Licinius, but is defeated at Heraolea 

and slain. 



Table of Dates xxvii 



314. War between Constantino and Licinius, who is defeated and makes 

peace. 

315. Pachomius groups monks together in monasteries and institutes 

common life. 

316?. Death of Diocletian. 

320. Epiphanius of Constantia born: died about 400 A.D. 
323. War between Constantino and Licinius, who is defeated and put to 

death. 

Constantine becomes sole Emperor. 
Constantino issues renewed edict of toleration. 
324 ?. Constantine directs enquiry into Manichaean doctrines by Musoni- 

anus (Strategius), Braetorian Prefect of the East. 
325. Constantine summons Council of Nicaea. 
327. Foundation of Constantinople and transfer of capital of Empire 

thither. 
337. Baptism and death of Constantine. 



BOOKS AND ARTICLES REFERRED TO 

IN TEXT OR NOTES 

N.B. The works of the better-known classical writers (e.g. Livy) 
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from the collection Miiller-Didot or from Teubner's series; those in the 
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Acad6inie dea Inscriptions et Belles Lettres. Comptes-Bendua das 
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The Academy. 1869, etc. In progress. 

Agyptische JSprache, Zeitschrift fur. See Zeitschrifl, infra. 

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ADLIOT, M. See Xenia. 

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Notice snr le Papyrus Gnostique Bruce. Pa.ris, 1891. (Notices et 

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AMELTJKG, W. Le Sarapis de Bryaxis. 1903. See Hevw ArcJMogiym, 
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BooJcs and Articles referred to xxix 

Antiquaires do France, see Soci^te* Nationale des A. de F. 
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HEGEMONKTS. 
Arckiv fur mssenschaftliche Erforschung des alien Testaments. Halle, 

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Asiatic Society, See Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, etc. 
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veaux fournis sur les Ophites par les Philosophonmena. Nancy, 1873. 
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HBINBICH. Les J6raites. Traduit de TAllemand par Gabriel 
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BelJgieTir et Politique. Paris, 1912. (Biblioth&qu 



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BRANDT, A. J. H. WILHELM. I>ie Mandaische Religion, ihre Entwickelung 

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Memoires pr6sent6s par divers savants. Serie I, t. 2.) 
Les Papyrus grecs du Mus4e du Louvre. Paris, 1865. (Notices et 

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BTJDGE, ERNEST ALFRED THOMPSON WALLIS, LittD., etc. The Papyrus 

of Nesi-Amsu. See ArcJiaeologia, vol. Lxn, Pt 2 (1890). 

The Book of the Dead. 1898. 3 vols. 

The History of Egypt. 1902. 8 vols. 

> The Gods of the Egyptians. 1904. 2 vols. 

Egyptian Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum. 1910. 

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.BUDGE, E. A. T. WALLIS, KING, L. W., and THOMPSON, E. CAMPBELL. 

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^BURROWS, RONALD. Discoveries in Crete. 1907, 
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Boolks and Articles referred to xxxi 

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- - The Book of Jubilees. Translated from the Ethiopia 1902. 

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Greek. 1908. 

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CHAVANNES, EDOXJABD, et PELLIOT, PAUL. Un Trait6 Manich6en retrouv6 
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CHEYNE, THOMAS KELLY, D.D., etc. Prophecies of Isaiah. A new 
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xxxii HooJcs and Articles referred to 

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Catalogue of the Coptic MSS. in the British Museum. 1905. 

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De Hymnis Orphicis. Marburg, 1891. 

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DoLiiNaBB, JOHANN JOSEPH IGNAZ, D.D., etc. The Gentile and the Jew 
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DBEXLEB, A. Isis. See Roscher's Lexikon der Mythologie, s.h.v. 
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xxxiv Books and Articles referred to 

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FAYE, EUGENE DE. Introduction a TlStude du Gnosticisme an n e et au 
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formation d'une Doctrine de Dieu an n e Siecle. See Mevue de 

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FFOULKES, EDMUND SALISBURY. Chiliasts. See Smith's Dictionary of 

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FOAKES-JAOKSON, F. J., B.D., etc. Some Christian Difficulties in the 
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FORSHALL, JOSIAH. Description of the Greek Papyri in the British 

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FOSSEY, CHARLES. Les Fouilles Allemandes a Boghaz-Keui Parie, 

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FOUCART, PAUL, Membre de Tlnstitut, etc. Les Associations Beligieuses 
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Eecherchos sur 1'origine et la nature des Mysteres d'^leusis. Paris, 

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Les Grands Myst&res d'^leusis. Paris, 1900. (Eztrait dea M6- 

moires de l'Acad6mie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, t. xxxvrr.) 
Le Culte de Dionysos en Attique. Paris, 1904. (Id., t, xxxra) 
FEANOK, ADOLPHB. La Kabbale. Paris, 1843. 

Le Gnosticisme Higyptien. See Journal des Savans> Avril, 1888. 

FRAZER, Sir J. G., D.C.L., etc. The Golden Bough. 1913-1915. 12 vols, 
FREEMAN, EDWARD AUGUSTUS, D.C.L., etc. Historical Essays. 1871- 

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FRIEDLANDER, M. Der vorchristKohe jiidische Gnosticismue. Gdttinjren 
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FUWDER, JOHN MEE. Ebionites. See Smith's Dictionary of Christian 
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Books and Articles referred to xxxv 

FULLER, JOHN MEE. Tatianus. See ibid, s.h.v. 

GARDNER, PERCY, Litt.D., etc. The Coins of the Greek and Scythic 

kings of Bactria and India in the British Museum. 1884. 
GARRTJCCI, RAFFAELE. Les Mysteres du syncretisme Phrygien dans les 

catacombes Romaines de Pretextat. Paris, 1854. 
GASTER, MOSES, Ph.D., etc. The Apocalypse of Abraham. 1893. See 

Transactions of Society of Biblical Archaeology, vol. ix. pt 1 (1893). 
The Oldest Version of Midrash Megillah. Berlin, 1897. See 

Kohut's Semitic Studies. 
Gazette Archdologique. Paris. 1875-1887. 
GIBBON, EDWARD. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Edited 

by J". B. Bury, Litt.D., etc. 1897-1900. 7 veils. 
GIRATJD, FRANCOIS, M.S.T., etc. Ophitae. Dissertatio historica theo* 

logica de eorum origine, placitis, ac fatis. Paris, 1884. 
GLEICHEF, ALFRED EDWARD WILFRID, Count. The Anglo-Egyptian 

Soudan. 1905. 
GOBLET D'ALVIELLA, Le Comte. Ce que Hnde doit a la- Grece. Paris, 

1897. 
GRAUX, CH. Melanges: Recueil dedie a la memoire de C. G. Paris. 

1884. 
GRIFFITH, F. LL., M.A., etc. Stories of the High Priests of Memphis. 

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The old Coptic Magical Texts of Paris. Leipzig, 1900. (Extract 

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GRIFFITH, F. LL., and THOMPSON, Sir HERBERT, Bart. The Demotic 

Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden. 1904. 
GROTE, GEORGE. A History of Greece. 1888. 10 vols. 
GRXTBER, JOHAOT NEPOMUO. Die Ophiten. Wiirzburg, 1864. 2 vols. 
GUIGNEBERT, CHARLES. L'^volution des Dogmes. Paris, 1910. (Biblio- 

theque de Philosophie Scientifique.) 
GTJIQNIATJT, JOSEPH DAMEL. Les Religions de FAntiquite. Traduit de 

FAJlemand par L. F. A. Maury et E. Vinet. Paris, 1825, etc. tt. 4. 

(German title: SymboHk, von A. F. Creuzer.) 
HAHN, AuatrsT. Antitheses Marcionis gnostic! Konigsberg, 1823. 
EvangeEum Marcionis ex auctoritate veterum monumentorum 

descripsit Augustus Hahn. Lipsiae, 1832. (Thilo*s Codex Apocry- 

phus Novi Testament!, 1. 1.) 
HALI&VY, JOSEPH. Recherches Bibliques, Pt 1. Le Ttoagramme. 

Paris, 1884. See Revue des $titdes juives, t. ix. 1884. 
HARNAOK, ADOLF, D.D., etc. Cfber das gnostische Buch Pistis Sophia. 

Leipzig, 1891. (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der 

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OutHnes of the History of Dogma. Translated from the German 

"by Neil Buchanan. 1894. 7 vols. (German title: Dogmenge- 

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xxxvi Books and Articles referred to 

HAKNAOK, ADOLF, D.D., etc. What is Christianity? Translated from 

the German by T. B. Saunders. 1904. (German title: Das Wesen 

des Christentums.) 

The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries. Trans- 
lated from the German by James Moffatt. 1908. 2 vols. (German 

title: Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten 

Drei Jahrhunderten.) 

Marcion. See Encyclopaedia Britannica, llth ed, s."h.v. 

HABNACK, A., and CONYBEABE, F. C. Manichaeans. See ibid, s.h.v. 
HABBISON, Miss JANE. Prolegomena to History of Greek Religion. 1903. 
HABTLAND, EDWIN SIDNEY, F.S.A., etc. Ritual and Belief: Studies in 

the History of Religion. 1914. 
HASTINGS, JAMBS, D.D., etc. A Dictionary of the Bible. Edinburgh, 

1900-1904. 5 vols. 
HATCH, EDWIN, D.D., etc. The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages 

upon the Christian Church. 1890. (Hibbert Lectures.) 
HATTSRATH, ADOLF. A History of New Testament Times. Translated 

from the German by C. T. Poynting and P. Quenzer. 1878, etc. In 

progress. (German title: Neutestamentliche Zeitgeschichte.) 
HEGEMONIITS. Acta Archelai Edited by Charles Henry Beeson of 

Chicago. Leipzig, 1906. (Die Griechischen Schriftsteller der ersten 

Drei Jahrhunderte. Kirchenvater-Commission der Kgl. Preuss. 

Akad. der Wissenschaften.) 
Hellenic Studies, Journal of. See Society for Promotion of Hellenic 

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HEBMATHENA. A series of Papers on Literature, Science, and Philosophy, 

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HJEBONYMTJS, Pseudo-. Indiculus de Haeresibus. See Oehler, Corpus 

Haereseologicum, vol. I. 
HBDD, J. A. iStude sur les Demons dans la litteratur et la religion dee 

Grecs. Paris, 1881. 
HZLOTOTELD, ADOLF. Kritische Untersuchungen uber die Evangelien, 

Justins, der Clementinischen Homilien und Marcions. Halle 9 1850. 
Das Apostolikon Marcions. Gotha, 1855. See Zeitschrift fur M$t 

TheoL, Bd 25 (1855). 
Novum Testamentum extra canonem receptum. Lipsiae, 1884. 

4 vols. 

Die Ketzergeschichte des Urohristentums. Leipzig, 1884* 

HrEpOLYTtrs, Bishop of Porte Romana. Philosophoumena, sive Haeresium 

omnium confutatio. E codice Parisino productum recensuit Latin 

vertit, etc. Patricius Cruioe. Paris, 1860. 
HoaABTH, DAVID G. Philip and Alexander of Macedon. 1897* 
HOLDIOH, Sir THOMAS, K.C.M.G. The Gates of India. 1910. 
HOBT, FENTON JOHN ANTHONY, D.D., etc, Colarbasus. See Smith's 

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Books and Articles referred to xxxvii 

HORT, FENTON JOHN ANTHONY, D.D., etc. Bardaisan. Ibid., s.h.v. 

Barbelo. Ibid, s.h.v. 

HOWERTH, IRA W. What is Religion? See International Journal of Ethics. 

1903. 
HUBERT, H., et MATJSS, M. Esquisse d'une theorie generate de la Magie. 

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HTTTTON, FREDERICK WOLLASTON, F.R.S. Darwinism and Lamarckism* 

1899. 

HYVERNAT, H. Album de Pal^ographie Copte. Paris, 1868. 
JNGE, WILLIAM RALPH, B.D., Dean of St Paul's. Christian Mysticism, 

1899. (Bampton Lectures.) 
Institut Franais d'Arche'ologie orientale. Mdmoires publics par Us 

membres de VInstitut. Le Caire, 1902, etc. In progress. 
International Congress of Religions, Third. Transactions. Oxford, 1908. 

2 vols. 

International Journal of Ethics. Philadelphia, 1890, etc. In progress. 
IRBNAETJS, Bishop of Lyons. Sancti Irenaei episcopi Lugdunensis libros 

quinque adversus Haereses. Edidit W. Wigan Harvey, S.T.B., 

etc. Cambridge, 1857. 2 vols. 
ISIDORE 61 SPAIN. Isidorus Hispalensis de Haeresibus. See Oehler, 

Corpus Haereseologicum, vol. i. 
JACOBI, H. G. The Antiquity of Vedic Culture. 1909-1910. See 

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1909, 1910. 
JAMES, MONTAGUE RHODES, Litt.D., etc. The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch. 

Cambridge, 1897. See (Apocrypha Anecdota) Cambridge Texts and 

Studies, vol. v. 
JANET, PIERRE, Membre de I'lnstitut. L'Automatisme Psychologique. 

Paris, 1899. 
JASTROW, MORRIS, Ph.D., etc. The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria. 

Boston, U.S.A., 1898. 
JELLINEK, ADOLF, Ph.D., etc. t)ber das Buch der JubilHen und das 

Noah-Buch. Leipzig, 1855. 

JENSEN, P., Ph.D., etc. Die Kosmologie der Babylonien. Strassburg, 1890. 
JEQXTIER, GXTSTAVE. Le livre de ce qu'il y a dans I'Had&s. Paris, 1894. 
JEVONS, FRANK BYRON, Litt.D. Introduction to the Study of Compara- 
tive Religion. New York, 1908. (Hartford-Lamson Lectures on. 

the Religions of the World.) 

Jewish Quarterly Review. London, 1888, etc. In progress. 
JOHNSON, SAMUEL. Oriental Religions and their relation to universal 

religion: Persia. 1885. 

JOHNSON, WALTER. Byways of British Archaeology. 1912. 
Journal des Savans. Paris, 1816 etc. In progress. 
Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. See Egypt Exploration Fund. 
Journal of Hellenic Studies. See Society for the Promotion of Hellenic 

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xxxviii Books and Articles referred to 

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. See Royal Asiatic Society of Great 

Britain and Ireland. 
JTTLICHEB, A., D.D., etc. Essenes. See Cheyne's Encyclopaedia Biblica, s.h.v. 

Gnosis. Ibid., s.h.v. 

KEIM, GAEL THEODOR. Celsus' Wahren Wort. Zurich, 1873. 
KENYON, Sir FREDERIC GEORGE, K.C.B. Greek Papyri in the British 

Museum. Catalogue with Texts. 1893. 

Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament. 1912. 

KERN, OTTO, Ph.D., etc. De Orphei, Epimenidis, Pherecydis, Theogoniis 

Quaestiones criticae. Berlin, 1888. 
Die Herkunft des orphischen Hymnenbuchs. 1910. See Carl, 

Robert, Genethliakon. 
KESSLER, KONRAD, Ph.D., etc. Forschungen iiber die Manichaische 

Religion. Berlin, 1889. Bd I (aE published). 
KsdNi, THEODORE BAR, Bishop of Kashgar. Scholia. 1898. See Pognon, 

Inscriptions Mandaites. 

KING, C. W. The Gnostics and their Remains. 1887. 
KING, LEONARD WILLIAM, Litt.D. The Seven Tablets of Creation. 

1902. 2 vols. 

Chronicles of Early Babylonian Kings. 1907. 2 vols. 

? KOHLBR, KAUPMANN. Pre-Talmudic Haggadah. 1895. See Jewish 

Quarterly Review, 1895. 
KOHUT, GEORGE ALEXANDER. Semitic Studies by various authors in 

memory of Rev. Dr Alexander Kohut. Berlin, 1897. 
KOSTLIN, K. R., D.D., etc. "Ober das gnostische System des Buchs Pistis 

Sophia. , Tubingen, 1854. (Theologische JahrbUcher, ed. Baur and 

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KRALL, JAKOB, Ph.D., etc. Tacitus und der Orient. Wien, 1880. 4 

vols. (Untersuchungen aus der Alten Geschichte, Erster Heft.) 
KRUGER, T. HERMANN. Gnosticismus. See La Grande Encyclopedia, $,h*v* 
KTJENEN, ABRAHAM, D.D., etc. The Religion of Israel. Translated from 

the Dutch by A. H. May. 1874. 3 vols. (Dutch title: De Gods- 

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LAFAYE, GEORGES. Isis. See Daremberg et Saglio, Diet, des Antiquit6s, 

s.h.v. 
Histoire du Culte des Divinite's d'Alexandrie hors de T^gypte. 

Paris, 1884. (Bibliotheque des iScoles Franchises d'Athdnes et d 

Rome. Fasc. 33 e .) 
L'Initiatioii Mithriaque. Paris, 1900. (Conferences au Mus6e 



Guimet. Bibl. de Vulgarisation, t. xvm (1906).) 
E, EDWARD WIXUAM, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. 
Paisley, 1896. 

LANGDON, STEPHEN, Ph.D., etc. A Preliminary Account of a Sumexian 
Legend of the Flood and the Fall of Man. 1914. See Proceedings of 
the Society of Biblical Archaeology, voL xxzvi (1914). 



Hooks and Articles referred to xxxix 

LANGLOIS, VICTOR. Collection des Historiens anciens et modernes de 

l'Arme"nie. Paris, 1868, etc. 2 vols. 
LAYABD, Sir AUSTIN HENBY. Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and 

Babylon. 1853. 
LEA, HETOY CHABLES. A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. 

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LE COQ, A. von. A Short Account of. . .the First Royal Prussian (Second 
German) Expedition to Turfan in Chinese Turkestan. 1909. See 
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Exploration Arch6ologique & Tourfan. Paris, 1910. (Conf6r- 

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Turkish Khuastuanift from Tun-huang, 1911. See Journal of the 

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Ch6tscho. Facsimile- Wiedergaben der wichtigeren Funde der 

Ersten KgL Preussen Expedition nach Turfan. Berlin, 1913. Bd 4. 

LEEMANS, CONBAD, Litt.Hum.D., etc. Papyri Graeci Musei Antiquarii 

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LEEEBXJBE, ETJGENE. L'Importance du Nona chez les iSgyptiens. See 

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LEGGE, F. Witchcraft in Scotland. Paisley, 1891. See Scottish Review, 
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Some Heretic Gospels. 1893. Ibid. vol. xxn (1893). 

Devil Worship and Freemasonry. 1896. See The Contemporary 

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The Sign Nutir or Neter. 1899. See Proceedings of Society of 



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Divination in the xvnth Century. 1899. See National Review for 

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The Names of Demons in the Magic Papyri. 1900. See Pro- 
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The Titles of the Thinite Kings. 1908. See Proceedings of Society 

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The Legend of Osiris. 1911. Ibid., vol. xxxm (1911). 

The Lion-headed God of the Mithraic Mysteries. 1912. Ibid., 

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Western Manichaeiszn and the Turfan Discoveries. 1913. See 

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The Greek Worship of Serapis and Isis. 1914. See Proceedings of 

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LBNOBMANT, FEAN^OIS. Dionysos Zagreus. Paris, 1879. See Gazette 

Arch&logique, 1879. 

Baubo. See Daremberg et Saglio, Diet, des Antiq., s.Ji.v. 

Eleusinia. Ibid., s.h.v. 
Lire, SYLVAIN. Bouddhisme et les Grece. Paris, 1891. See Revue 

de VHistoire d?s Religions, t. xxra (1891). 



xl Books and Articles referred to 

LivY, ISIDORE, Directeur anc a U'lScole des Hautes Etudes. Sarapis. Paris, 
1913. Extrait de la Revue de VHistoire, des Religions (1911, 1913). 

LIGHTFOOT, JOSEPH BARBER, Bishop of Durham. Epistles to Colossians 
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- The Apostolic Fathers: revised texts with Introductions and 
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LILLIB, ARTHUR. Buddhism in Christendom, or Jesus the Essene. 1887* 

- Buddha and Buddhism. Edinburgh, 1900. 

LIPSIUS, RICHARD ADALBERT, D.D., etc. Gospels Apocryphal. 1880, 

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Literature, see Royal Society of, infra. 
LOBEOK, CHRISTIAN AUGUST. Aglaophamus, sive de Theologiae mysticae 

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LOEB, ISIDORE. La Cabbale juive. See La Grande Encyclopedie, s.h.v* 
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LORET, VICTOR. Les Enseignes Militaires des Tribus et les Symboles 

Hieroglyphiques des Divinit6s. Paris, 1902. See Revue JUgyptologique 

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Quelques idees sur la forme primitive de certaines Religions 



tiennes. Paris, 1904. See idem for 1904. 
L'lSgypte en Temps du Totemisme. Paris, 1906. (Conferences an 



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LOVATBLLI, A. CAETANI. II Culto d'Iside in Roma. Roma, 1891. (Mis- 
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LUBBOCK, Sir JOHN, afterwards Lord Avebury. Origin of Civilization. 1889. 
LUEBBERT, EDWARD, Ph.D., etc. Commentatio de Pindaro dogmatis d 

migratione animarum cultore. Bonn, 1887. 
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INTRODUCTION 

THE worships, beliefs, and religious practices of the age 
which saw the birth and infancy of Christianity must 
always be the most interesting of all subjects to the student- 
of history, nor are there many more deserving the attention of 
the general reader. The opponent, quite as much as the* 
adherent of Christianity, must admit that the early struggles 
of the faith which is professed by nearly a third of the human 
race, which for fifteen centuries wielded unchallenged sway 
over the whole of Europe, and which has grown with the 
growth of European colonization until it now has a firm 
settlement in every quarter of the inhabited world, must ever 
possess surpassing interest for humanity. Yet the popular ideas 
on the subject are not only vague but erroneous. A general 
notion that, shortly before the coming of Christ, the Pagans 
had tired of their old gods, and, lost to all sense of decency, 
had given themselves up to an unbridled immorality founded 
on atheistic ideas, is probably about as far as the man who has 
given no special study to the subject would venture to go. 
Such a view, founded perhaps on somewhat misty recollections 
of the Roman satirists and a little secondhand knowledge of 
the denunciations of the early Christian writers, is almost 
the reverse of the truth. There has probably been no time 
in the history of mankind when all classes were more given 
up to thoughts of religion, or when they strained more fer- 
vently after high ethical ideals, than in the six centuries which 
have been taken for the subject of this book 1 . 

1 For the pre-Christian centuries, the rise of ethical religions like that 
of the Greek Isis (see Chap. II infra) and of Mithras (see Chap. XII) is 
perhaps sufficient proof of this. For the post-Christian, see Tertulh'an'a 
remarks as to the interest excited among the heathens by problems like the 
origin of evil (de Praescript. c. vn.). As to their striving after morality, see 
Eug&ne de Faye, "Formation d'une Doctrine de Dieu au nme Si&cle," Mev. 
Hist. Eel. t, Lxm. (Jaru-Fev. 1911) pp. 1, 2, for authorities. See, too* 
Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, 1890, pp, 291, 292 and Harnack as there quoted. 



1 Introduction 

The cause of this misconception is, however, clear enough. 
Half a century ago, the general public was without guide or 
leader in such matters, nor had they any materials on which 
"to form opinions of their own. The classical education which 
was all that the majority of men then got, carefully left all 
uch matters as the origins of Christianity on one side. The 
treatises of the Fathers of the Church, for the most part written 
in late and inelegant Greek, were held to be too corrupting to 
the style of scholars reared on the texts of the purest period 
to be attempted by any but professional theologians, by whom 
indeed they were often very imperfectly understood. Nor 
was much to be gathered from the profane historians of the 
early Christian centuries, who maintained such an obstinate 
silence with regard to Christianity as to give rise to the 
theory that they must have conspired to ignore the new 
religion of the lower classes as something too barbarous 
fcxr ears polite 1 . Moreover, the ruling maxim of education, 
especially of English education until the end of the xixth 
century, was that it was better to know one thing thoroughly 
than to acquire a smattering of a great many, and that 
a scholar was better served by an intimate knowledge of 
second aorists than by any wide extent of reading; while 
the comparative method of study was still confined to 
sciences of analysis like anatomy and philology 2 . Above all, 
what has been called the catastrophic view of the Christian 
religion was still in fashion. Although our spiritual pastors 
and masters were never tired of reminding us that God's ways 
were not as our ways, they invariably talked and wrote on the 
assumption that they were, and thought an Omnipotent 
Creator with eternity before Him must needs behave Mke a 
schoolboy in control of gunpowder for the first time. Hence 
" the remarkable victory " which, in the words of Gibbon, 
the Christiaa faith obtained .over " the established religions 

1 W.M.Karosay, The Church in the Roman Umpire, 1893, pp. 263, 204;, 

2 Tiele, in Ms Giflford Lectures delivered in 1895, remarks on the ridkrale 
with which the learned Hellenists of his youth received the efforts of thos 
whom they called the compwrativi. See Elements of the Science of Eeligian* 
1897, vol. I. p. 7. 



Introduction li 

of the earth " was in the view of the orthodox chiefly due 
to the miraculous powers placed at the disposal of the primitive 
Church, and it was considered impious to look further for the 
cause of the despotic rule which in a comparatively brief space 
of time it succeeded in establishing over the minds of men. 

From this state of things, the foundation of what is known 
as the science of religions did much to deliver us. When 
non-Christian faiths, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroas- 
trianism, and Mohammedanism, came to be systematically 
studied without preconceived hostility or desire to jeer at 
their absurdities, it was seen that the same atmosphere of 
miracle and legend had gathered round their infancy as round 
that of the Christian Church. Outside the regular or canonical 
scriptures if the phrase may be used of all of these faiths, 
there had evidently grown up a, vast literature of uncertain 
date and authorship in which the same stories were repeated 
and the same episodes introduced as in the Christian Apo- 
cryphal Gospels, Acts, and Lives of the Saints. It began to 
dawn upon us that, as the human mind under the same con- 
ditions generally works in the same way, it was possible that 
all religions, whether true or false, might have gone through 
the same or similar stages of development 1 . 

That this view of the case was in itself a great step in 
advance, everyone will readily admit who can remember the 
horror with which any proposal to equate or even compare 
Christianity with any other religion was once received. It 
was much helped, however, by another novel hypothesis which 
about that time had got over its period of obloquy and was 
rapidly coming to the front, namely, the theory of evolution. 
When Darwin in his Origin of Species enunciated the truth 
that as more animals and plants than the earth can support 
come into existence every year, it is only those varieties 
which are best fitted to their environment which survive the 

1 No better proof can be given of the change in. public opinion in such 
matters than the comparison of Gibbon's words with regard to " the 
miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive Church " (Decline and Fall, 
Bury's edition, vol. n. p. 2) and the way the subject is treated in the article 
** Wonders " in Cheyne's Encyclopedia BibUca, 1903, 



lii Introduction 

consequent struggle for existence, he practically gave us a 
new standpoint from which to contemplate Nature. Herbert 
Spencer, quickly grasping this principle and carrying its appli- 
cation much, further than Darwin had ventured to do, showed 
that it governed the development not only of animal forms 
but of the intellectual and moral faculties of man, of political 
and social institutions, and even of what he called " eccle- 
siastical institutions/' which included religions themselves. 
With the general acceptance of this view, it followed that the 
success in point of popularity of any creed at any period of 
the world's history was not due to any sudden or capricious 
exercise of the Divine will, but to the normal working of a 
universal and irresistible law. 

But, at this point, we must stop a little to define what is meant 
by the science of religions. Science, in this sense, has so far 
departed from its strict and etymological signification of know- 
ledge, as to connote exact knowledge based upon ascertained 
fact, while a science is generally held to mean an organized 
system in which the largest possible number of related facts 
are gathered together with reference to one common subject 
of study. At first sight, it appears that nothing can be more 
rigidly excluded by this definition than religion, which has 
been defined as " the effective desire to be in right relation 
to the power manifesting itself in the universe 1 ." This, 
which in some quarters would be called the religion " of the 
heart," can never form the subject of study based upon exact 
knowledge, because the relations between any human being 
and the power manifesting itself in the universe can be known 
only, so far as we can see, to that being and to that power. 
But in the science under consideration, there is no question 
of religion generally, but of religions, which is a very different 
thing. By a religion, we generally mean the assembly of 
beliefs, traditions, and forms of worship which go to make 
up a faith or cult, and this, as it must, according to the ex- 
perience of all history, have come into being through the agency 
of some man or men, should go through the same evolutionary 

1 The definition is that of Ira W. Howerth, International Journal of 
Mihics, 1003, p. 205. 



Introduction liii 

process as all other human institutions. Hence there is at first 
sight a considerable probability that all religions whatever will 
be found on examination to follow the same law of development 
by the survival of those best fitted to their environment that 
we have seen operative in the case of animal forms. 

Here, however, the Christian or for that matter, the 
adherent of any faith which claims to have been founded by 
a special revelation finds himself in the presence of a dilemma. 
His own faith, whether it be Christianity or another, is in his 
eyes true, as being not the work of man, but of God, and all 
others are false. How therefore are they to be compared ? 
Is the Jew, who believes the Law to have been delivered to 
his people " among the thunders of Sinai," the Parsi who is 
taught the special inspiration of Zoroaster by the " Omniscient 
Lord " Ahura Mazda, or the Mohammedan who thinks that 
Mohammed received the Koran from Allah himself, to be 
told that his faith has developed according to the same laws 
as that of the Christian, who is convinced that his has no other 
source than the teaching of the Divine Founder of Christianity? 

To this it may be said that the dilemma is more apparent 
than real, and is due to a like confusion of thought with 
that which seized upon many when the evolutionary theory 
was first promulgated. No argument was then more common 
than that the Divine creation of the animals, including mai^ 
was authoritatively revealed once for all in the first chapter 
of Genesis, and that the bare formulation of the idea that man's 
bodily form had developed by a long process of evolution and 
selection from those of the lower animals was therefore a 
blasphemy that could only be uttered by atheistic men of 
science 1 . There is no occasion to go here into the tissue of 
sophistries and misconceptions with which Mr Gladstone, when 
confronted with this argument in controversy with M. Albert 
B&ville, one of the founders of the science of religions, and with 
M. R&ville's champion Prof. Huxley, tried to prove that the 

1 See Tiele, op. cit. voL L pp. 5 sqq. The controversies raging round 
Darwin's theory when first put forward are well summarized by F. W , 
Hutton in his Darwinism cmd LamtMrMam, 1899, passim. Cf. Delage and 
Goldsmith, Les fh&ories de Involution, Paris, 1909, pp. 28, 29, 



liv Introduction 

assertion of the doctrine of evolution was to be found in the 
Book of Genesis. It is sufficient to say that Darwin never 
affirmed that natural selection or the survival of the fittest 
was the cause of the variation of animal forms, but simply that 
it was the mode in which that variation, however caused, 
operated 1 . In like manner, it may be said that the science 
of religions by no means attempts to discuss the causes which 
lead to the institution of any particular religion, but deals 
merely with the laws underlying its development when once 
instituted. The Christian religion, like those of Moses, Zoro- 
aster, and Mohammed, however Divine its origin, was, like 
them, propagated by men who founded the Church, handed 
on the traditions, and gave form to the ceremonies. Is there, 
therefore, any reason why the same law of development should 
not apply to this as well as to its rivals ? 

That the answer to this must be in the negative is at last 
beginning to be generally admitted. Prof. Tiele, writing in 
1897, was obliged to confess that " the new science of religions 
was in many quarters regarded with suspicion 2 ," but Dr Jevons, 
when lecturing at Hartford in 1908, was able to say that " the 
time has happily gone by when the mere idea of comparing 
Christianity with any other religion would have been rejected 
with horror as treasonous and treacherous 3 ." Yet it may be 
doubted whether the clouds have rolled completely away, and 
it is fairly certain that the many learned and able Catholic 
priests who have done so much to elucidate the origins and 
tendencies of ancient religions other than their own have 
until lately avoided the discussion of their relations with the 
earliest forms of Christianity. This is the more to be regretted, 
because they are in many cases peculiarly fitted for the inves- 
tigation, and their acquaintance with the extra-Canonical 
Christian writers before Constantino, hitherto much neglected 
by Protestant theologians, would make their conclusions upon 
it especially valuable. Yet it is along these lines that future 



1 See EDutton, op. tit, p. 111. 

2 Tiele, op. cit. voL I. p. 11. 

3 F. B. Jevons, Introduction to the Study of Comparative Religion, 1908> 
p. 18. 



Introduction Iv 

inquiry will probably advance ; and if, as most of us believe, 
the Christian religion has outdistanced and survived all its 
early competitors because it was better fitted than they to 
its environment, it is of great importance even from the point 
of view of the most rigid orthodoxy, that we should have a clear 
conception of what that environment was. Fortunately the 
gaps in our knowledge have been in great measure filled by the 
work of Continental scholars outside the pale of the Catholic 
Church, who have been indefatigable of late years in dis- 
covering documents, editing texts, and publishing monuments 
which throw great light on the history of the religions which 
at the outset competed with Christianity for the favour of 
the Grraeco-Boman world. A summary of these labours is 
one of the objects aimed at in the following pages. 

If, now, we attempt to examine what these competitors 
were, we find at the outset that a good number of those which 
we once thought formidable may be eliminated from the list. 
Judaism, for instance, although the matrix in which Chris- 
tianity was formed, was never at any time in effective rivalry 
with it. The words of the Gospel as to the Pharisees com- 
passing sea and land to make one proselyte have misled the 
unwary into supposing that the number of Jewish proselytes 
was at one time or another large 1 ; but it must be remembered 
that it was the Sadducees and not the Pharisees who were the 
dominant party in the Jewish State, and that these last formed 
but a very small part of the total population of Judaea 2 . The 
Sadducees from their Hellemzing tendencies were much more 
likely to go over to the faith of the Grentiles than to make any 
great effort for their conversion, and both they and the Bssenes, 
who formed in Josephus' day the third party among the Jews, 



1 Like the late Dean Stanley, who in Ms Lectures on the History of the 
Jewish Church, talked about the synagogue of the Jewish settlement in 
Kome under the first Emperors " fascinating the proud Boman nobles by 
the glimpse it gave of a better world " (vol. m, p. 410). 

2 According to Josephus (Antiq. xvm. i. 3, 4) they did not amount 
to more than 6000 men distributed throughout the whole of Palestine. 
Morrison thinks that '* the Pharisaic party had no attraction for the great 
bulk of the population," The Jews under Roman Rule, 1890, p. 307. 



Ivi Introduction 

were too much, set on procuring, by different means, the temporal 
supremacy of Israel, to care much, about admitting any proselyte 
to share in it 1 . Although, a few undistinguished persons of 
Gentile blood may have become converts to Judaism between 
the birth of Christ and the fall of the Temple, their number 
can never have been at any time important ; and after 69 A.D., 
the furious hostility that arose between Jew and Gentile made 
any further conversions to the Jewish faith practically impos- 
sible. Never, so far as we know, did Judaism aim at becoming, 
and certainly never had the slightest chance of appearing 
as, a world-religion. 

Not less hopeless, In this respect, was the case of the Graeco- 
Rornan pantheon. The late Mr Long's picture of " Diana or 
Christ," representing a young woman called upon by a sympa- 
thetic Roman magistrate to choose between sacrificing to 
the statue of the many-breasted Artemis of Ephesus and 
condemnation to death as a Christian, attained great popu- 
larity in its day, and shows with, fair clearness the view of 
the relations between Paganism and early Christianity supposed 
at the end of the last century to have been current in the 
first. Yet hardly anything could give a falser idea of the 
religious history of the period. The ofiicials of the Roman 
Empire in time of persecution sought to force the Christians 
to sacrifice, not to any of the heathen gods, but to the Genius 
of the Emperor and the Fortune of the City of Rome ; and 
at all times the Christians' refusal was looked upon not as a 
religious but as a political offence 2 . For the rest, the worship 
of the Olympian gods had, when Christianity came to the 
surface, almost entirely died out, and both Greek and Latin 
writers bear witness to the contempt with which it was re- 
garded by both races at the beginning of our era. Cicero, 
while admitting that the world is governed by the providence 
of the gods, rejects all the myths attached to them as impious, 
and declares that the " Deity who is diffused in every part 
of Nature" appears as the earth under tte name of Ceres, 

1 See Chap. V infra. 

2 See Neander, General Hist, of the CJuristian EeUgion and 
Bug. ed. 1853, voL L p. 126. 



Introduction Mi 

as tlie sea under that of Neptune, and so on 1 . Plutarch, 
too, is plainly a monotheist, who worships " the one eternal, 
passionless Spirit far removed from the world of chance and 
change and earthly soilure " of Greek philosophy 2 ; and, while 
lamenting the decay of faith which has led to the cessation of 
oracles, thinks that all the manifestations of the Divine pro- 
vidence are the work of no great deity, but of a crowd of inferior 
powers or demons who are hardly in a greater superiority of 
position to man than the fairies of our childhood 3 . Whatever 
rivalry the Christian Church had to face in its infancy, it had 
none to fear from the deities of Olympus. 

It has been said, however, and to a certain extent accepted, 
that the first efforts of Christianity were sorely hindered by 
the followers of the great Greek philosophers. In this tltere is 
a certain amount of truth, for the Neo-Platonic school did 
indeed enter into an alliance with the few remaining wor- 
shippers of the Pagan gods which forced them into an attitude 
of opposition to Christianity. But this was at a date some 
time after the compact with Constantine, and consequently 
later than that within the scope of this book. Nor is it likely 
that at an earlier date philosophy and Christianity appealed 
to the same class of minds, and that they thus entered into 
serious competition with each other. As the late Dr Hatch 
has said, " the earliest forms of Christianity were not only 
outside the sphere of Greek philosophy, but they also appealed 
on the one hand, mainly to the classes which philosophy did 
not reach, and on the other hand, to a standard which philosophy 
did not recognize 4 ." Faith, not reason, was the quality that 
the Apostles and their immediate successors sought in their 
hearers, and Cdsus was p'robably not far wrong when he said 

1 De Natura Deomw, o. xxvm. The statement is put into the mouth o 
Balbus whose arguments Cicero declares to have in his opinion "the 
greater probability." See also Athenagoras, Legatio, c. xxn. and 
Minucius Felix, c. Xix. With such interpretations or mythoplasms, 
Philo of Alexandria was familiar. Of. 3?. 0. Conybeare, Apology of Apol- 
lonius, 1894, p. 9. 
' 2 Dffl, &om<m Society from Nero to Marcus Aurdius, 1904, p. 419. 

8 De Iside et Osiride, c. xxv. 

* Hatch, Hibbert Letitwes, p. 124. 



Iviii Introduction 

that the rule of admission into the infant Church was " Let 
no educated man enter, no wise man, no prudent man, for 
such things we deem evil ; but whoever is ignorant, whoever 
is unintelligent, whoever is simple, let him come and be wel- 
come 1 ." To this state of mind the password of the early 
Christian communities, Maran atha, is a sufficient key. The 
confident expectation of the nearness of the Parusia or Second 
Advent for the primitive Christian overwhelmed all other con- 
siderations. " The Lord is at hand and His reward " was 
the one fact that he wished to keep before him. What need 
to trouble about the Highest Good or the hundred other ques- 
tions that vexed the souls of the philosophers ? 

The religions competing with Christianity which are left 
after this elimination may be classed in three categories. First 
come the Oriental religions native to countries lying to the 
south and east of the Mediterranean and therefore mainly 
outside the sphere of Hellenic culture until after the conquests 
of Alexander. These religions, born or nurtured in Asia Minor, 
Persia, and Egypt, so soon as Alexander had carried out his 
project of the marriage of Europe and Asia, poured westward 
in a flood which a Eoman satirist compared to the Orontes 
emptying itself into the Tiber, and gained, according to a 
well-known law in the history of religions, a far greater in- 
fluence over the minds of men than they had exercised in their 
native home. The second category comprises the many strange 
sects which the first Fathers of the Church grouped together 
under the generic name of Gnostics. The faith which these 
professed was not, as it is sought to show later, one founded 
on religion at all but rather on magic, and had long been present 
in germ as a sort of heresy or alternative belief underlying 
the worship of the g6ds of Olympus. Finally, there arose 
the ambitious religion of Manes, which aimed at sweeping 
into one vast synthesis or eclectic church the three religions 
of Zoroaster, Buddha, and Christ, which at the time of its 
institution divided between them the allegiance of the civilized 
world. 

Each of these categories shall be dealt with in turn ; but 

1 Origen, contra CeUm, t. m. c. 44. Of, Hatch, where last quoted. 



Introduction lix 

before doing so, it may be well to say something upon tlie 
state of our knowledge concerning them. Until lately, it was 
a commonplace of religious history that the Catholic Church 
had destroyed as far as possible all traces of the religions 
that she had supplanted, which was picturesquely expressed 
in the phrase that in her victory she had burned the enemy's 
camp. That this was her conscious policy may be gathered 
from the advice given by a Pope of the vnth century, to " break 
the idols and consecrate the temples " of the heathen 1 ; but 
of late many relics of the ancient faiths which had before 
escaped us have been disinterred by the care of scholars. 
During the last century, the lost heresiology of Hippolytus 
and considerable fragments of works by Gnostic authors were 
brought to light in circumstances to be described in their place 2 , 
while the present decade has not only added to our stock of 
Gnostic fragments, but has revealed to us on the western 
frontier of China a hoard of Manichaean documents rich beyond 
our hopes 3 . These are not only valuable by reason of the 
information they afford, but give us ground for the belief 
that, as the interest in such matters becomes more widely 
spread, many more documents throwing light upon the subject 
will appear. 

One word may be said in conclusion as to the relations 
of these rival religions between themselves. Whoever studies 
the documents here described cannot fail to be struck "by the 
fact that certain ideas, phrases, and even words, seem common 
to them all. At the time that these documents were written 
this similarity excited no remark from the orthodox, as it 
was at once disposed of by the theory that these religions 
were one and all the invention of the Devil, and therefore 
naturally bore traces of their common origin. This explana- 
tion, however convenient, does not satisfy the demands of 



i 



Of. DiH, Roman Society infhe Last Century of the Western Umpire, 1899, 
p, 38, n. 4. See also the edict of Constantino quoted in the concluding 
chapter, infra. The steps which led up to the policy are well summarized 
by Walter Johnson, Byways of British Archaeology, 1912, p. 25. 

2 See Chap. VII infra. 

See Chap. Xin infra. 



Ix Introduction 

modern criticism, and it is therefore necessary to look further. 
One way of accounting for the phenomenon is to suppose that 
many if not all of the analogies noticed are due to the mistakes 
of scribes and translators, who, when dealing with expressions 
unfamiliar to them, were naturally inclined to repeat the same 
phrases over and over again. This, as all know who have 
had to do with ancient manuscripts, is accountable for much, 
and it is extremely likely that a monk of the vth or vith cen- 
tury transcribing an account of the opinions of, for instance., 
the Ophites who flourished in Phrygia before the birth of Christ 
at the same time with those of the Manichaeans found in Borne 
three centuries later, would not hesitate to express views 
essentially different by the same phrases and even the same 
words. Add to this the jumble that persons untrained in 
philology naturally make between names in a foreign language 
and those of similar sound in their own tongue, coupled with 
the fixed idea of finding in the traditions of the heathen, a 
confirmation of the historical truth of the Hebrew Scriptures, 
and you have some explanation of the cause which makes 
many proper names recur unexpectedly in otherwise unrelated 
documents. Thus the Armenian bishop, Moses of Chorene, in 
narrating the story which he says he obtained from Berossus, 
the Chaldaean historian who wrote at the beginning of our 
era, says that " Before the building of the Tower of Babel and 
the multiplication of tongues among the human race, after 
the navigation of Xisuthros [i.e. Hasis-adra, the Babylonian 
Noah] in Armenia, Zervan, Titan, and Japhet were princes of 
the land. These persons," he adds, " seem to be Shem, Ham, 
and Japhet 1 ." Zervan is the name given by a late sect of 
Zoroastrians to the " Boundless Time " whom they placed at 
the origin of all things, while Titan belongs to the Hellenic 
mythology, and Japhet may either be Saturn's brother lapetus, 
or the patriarch of the Book of Genesis. It is to be conjectured 
that Berossus did not use these three names in the apposition 
quoted or probably at all, and we can only guess vainly at 
the real names which are concealed under those which Moses 
of Chorene here gives. 

1 Langlois, Gottectwnd&s Historiensde VAmtnie, Paris, 1868, 1. 1. p, 388. 



Introduction Ixi 

But when all allowance is made for mistakes like these, 
there remains a fund of ideas common to all or many of the 
religions hereafter treated of, which cannot be explained away 
by any theory of verbal inaccuracy 1 . As an instance of this, 
let us take the notion of an archetypal or heavenly man created 
ages before the appearance upon earth of terrestrial man, who was 
nevertheless made in the image and after the likeness of his pre- 
decessor. This idea, as will be shown later, is met with among 
the Phrygian Ophites, where " a Man and a Son of Man " 
were said to be the origin of all subsequent things, as in the 
Avestic literature of Persia where Gayomort, the son, according 
to one story, of the Supreme God Ahura Majzda by Ms daughter 
Spenta-armaiti, is made at once the pattern and the source 
of the whole human race. The borrowings of Zoroastrianism 
from Babylonia were not few, and we might conceive this to 
be the survival of some old Babylonian tradition, such as 
that which modern critics believe to have been the origin of 
the Creation and Flood stories of Genesis; and this theory 
is strengthened by the predominant part which this " First 
Man " plays in Manichaeism, itself a Babylonian faith, where 
the Turkestan MSS. show him as a sort of intermediary between 
the gods of light and this earth. But how shall we account 
for the fact that in one of the earliest documents of the Pistis 
Sophia, the collection of Gnostic writings hereafter described 2 , 
a great angel named Jeu, who is spoken of many times as the 
" overseer of the light " and the arranger of the Cosmos, is 
also alluded to as the "First Man," in a way which shows 
that the writer did not doubt that the allusion would be com- 
prehended by his readers without further explanation 3 ? The 

1 The late Dr Salmon's theory that writers like Hippolytus may have 
been taken in by a forger who made one document do duty for many 
different sects is given in Chap. VII infra, but the arguments in its favour 
are not conclusive. 

2 See Chap. X infra. 

8 Sir Oaston Maspero, " Sur rEnn6ade/' E.H.E. Jan.-Fev. 1892, p. 8, 
says that the Egyptians regarded Osiris as the First Man, and J6quier 
repeats the statement in his Livre de ce qu*il y a dans PHadfo, Paris, 1894, 
pp. 9-10. Yet there seems no evidence that the Egyptians ever knew him 
under that name* 



Ixii Introduction 

Pistis Sophia, although doubtless written in Greek in the first 
instance, comes to us in a Coptic dress, and the documents 
therein contained show more affinities with the Egyptian than 
with the Persian religion. How therefore can we account for the 
same idea appearing at almost the same time in countries 
between the peoples of which there was always bitter hostility, 
and which were separated moreover by the Arabian Desert 
and the whole breadth of Asia Minor ? 

It seems to the present writer that no solution of this and 
of the numerous other difficulties of which this is but one 
example can be profitably suggested, until we know more than 
we do at present about the origin and dates of Zoroastrianism. 
Although this religion is still with us in the beliefs of the modern 
Parsis, there is none about the origin of which we know less, 
or concerning the antiquity of which there is greater discre- 
pancy between ancient and modern writers. Thus, while 
Plutarch, quoting as is generally supposed Theopompos of 
Chios who flourished in the ivth century B.C., declares that 
Zoroaster himself wrote 5000 years before the Trojan War 1 , 
modern writers of authority, like Prof. Williams Jackson and 
Mdlle Menant, are inclined to bring down the date of the 
eponymous prophet or reformer of the Persian religion to 
700 B.C. 2 The discrepancy is too great to be bridged over 
by any compromise, and the question has been further com- 
plicated by the discovery a few years ago of inscriptions which 
show that Mithras, the Persian god whose worship formed 
the most dangerous rival to that of the Christian Church 
immediately before its alliance with Constantine, was one of 
the most exalted deities of the presumably Aryan Hittites or 
Mitannians at a date not later than 1272 B.C. 8 Signs are 

1 De Is. et Os. o. XLVT. 

2 See (Mdlle) B. Menant, "Parsis et Parsisme," Con/kernes cm Mmte 
Qwmet> 1904, and Prof. Williams Jackson as there quoted. The same date 
is accepted with some hesitation by Prof. Hope Moulton in his JSarly 
Zoroastriamsm (Hibbert Lectures), 1913, pp. 17 sqq. 

3 See H. 0. Jaoobi, " The Antiquity of Vedic Culture," Journal of the 
Royal Asiatic Society, 1909, pp. 720 sqq., where the texts relied upon are 
given and discussed. The correspondence which followed upon, this paper 
(see J.B.A..8. 1909, 1910) is full of interest. Possey, "Les EouOles 



Introduction Ixiii 

not wanting tliat discovery in the near future may take this 
line of advance, and if it should turn out that the religion which 
Zoroaster reformed was established in Northern Mesopotamia 
before the Homeric age, we may have to reconstruct all our 
ideas of the origin of the Greek religion. There seems no 
use therefore in dilating upon hypotheses which the course 
of research may in a very few years prove to be entirely 
erroneous 1 . 

In the meantime, the thing of immediate importance seems 
to be to get the documentary evidence already at our disposal 
as far as possible before the public, and this is attempted in 
the pages which follow. The different religions are there 
arranged in the chronological order of their greatest activity 
in the West with the belief that this course will prove most 
convenient to the reader. 

AHemandes & Boghaz-Keui," Journal des Sawns, July, 1909, p. 316, 
would make the date of the inscription about 1900 B.C. 

1 After this was in print, there came to hand Mr Stephen Langdon's 
translation of the Suinerian tablet from Nippur found by him at 
Philadelphia, which narrates in a new and modified form the earliest 
Babylonian legend of the Creation. From this it appears that the 
goddess Nin-harsag, either on her own account or as the agent of the 
god En-ki or Ea, ** created two creatures with heads, feet, and face as a 
model for mankind." See Mr Langdon's Preliminary Note in the Pro- 
ceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1914, p. 196, EU 23. A full 
transliteration and translation is promised later in the P. & B. A. If 
Mr Langdon's reading of the tablet is accepted, this may well prove to 
be the origin of all the "First Man" legends mentioned on p. M, $upra. 



CHAPTER I 

THE CONQUESTS OF ALEXANDER 

A GLANCE at the map of Asia at the coming of Alexander will 
convince us that all but a corner of the world known to the 
ancients was then ruled by a single power. The Persian Empire, 
sprawling like a huge octopus over the centre of the continent, 
dominated it from its four capitals at the head of the Persian 
Gulf, and stretched without a break from the Caspian Sea to 
the Indian Ocean. In its eastern provinces were comprised 
what is now Russian Turkestan from Krasnovodsk to Kashgar, 
with the Khanates and the Pamirs, all Afghanistan, Seistan, 
Baluchistan, the North- West Province, and part of the Punjab. 
On the western side of the Great Central Desert came the coun- 
tries which we now call Persia and Turkey in Asia containing 
in themselves a territory half the size of the Continent of Europe, 
together with the rich province to the south of the Caucasus 
which has lately passed into the grip of Eussia. From here one 
long tentacle had stretched across the Sinaitic Peninsula and had 
seized Egypt ; and, although another had shrunk back hurt from 
its attack on Greece, it yet held positions on the Bosphorus and 
the Hellespont which formed a standing menace that the raid 
might be repeated. Apart from the Greek States which, as has 
been well said, the Great King found easier to control through 
their own venal orators than to conquer by his soldiers, there 
remained outside his sway only the trading republic of Carthage 
and the Italian cities just rising into prominence. Travellers' 
tales, more than usually improbable and untrustworthy, were, 
indeed, told of great countries swarming with men and fabulous 
monsters lying beyond the African and Indian deserts on the 



2 The Conquests of Alexander [OIL 

southern, and the great ranges of mountains on the eastern, 
frontier of the Empire 1 ; but these gave as little concern to 
its rulers as did the fringe of barbarian tribes, Cimmerians, 
Hyperboreans, Gauls, and Scyths, who filled up the space 
between the civilized world and the imaginary ring of waters 
which was called the Outer Ocean. 

That this vast dominion should be loosely compacted was 
of the nature of things. The twenty or more provinces into 
which it was divided enjoyed a large measure of self-government, 
and had preserved, for the most part, their native laws and 
customs unaltered. Each of these divisions was ruled by a 
satrap who, like a Chinese viceroy, was allowed to maintain 
armies and even fleets of his own. But a check, imperfect no 
doubt but still existent, was exercised over his proceedings by 
the presence of a Royal Secretary in each satrapy, whose busi- 
ness it was to supervise the accounts, and to send up regular 
reports to the capital of the doings, of his coadjutor 2 , while the 
troops were under the command of a general appointed directly 
by the Crown. From time to time, also, a Royal Commissioner 
called the King's Eye visited the province with a strong guard 
to hear complaints and to see that all was in order 3 . The satrap, 
too, only held his post during his master's pleasure, and was 
liable at any moment to be removed to another province, de- 
graded, or put to death, on the strength of a simple letter bearing 
the Royal Seal ; and the tribute which each satrapy had to pay 
to the Great King being settled at a fixed and known amount, 
there was less chance than under some similar systems of devo- 
lution that the satrap might squeeze out of his subjects a sum 



1 Such as tlie Arimaspi or one-eyed inhabitants of Russia, about whom 
Herodotus (Bk m. a 116) quotes the legend that they stole gold from its 
griffin guardians, and those myrmec&s or great ants whom Mogasthenes 
(Strabo, Bk xv. c. 1, 44) and other writers describe as digging for gold 
on the Thibetan frontier a story of which more than one rationalistic 
explanation has been suggested. 

2 Bawlinson's Herodotus (1862 edition), IL p. 462 for authorities, 

2 Maspero, Histoire ancienne des Peuples de P Orient, Paris, 1904, p. 706. 
Bawlinson, op. tit. p. 463, thinks this practice lapsed early, but Xenophon 
seems clear that it was in force in his time (Cyropaedia, Bk vm. c, 6), 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 3 

far greater than that which, he transmitted to the Treasury 1 . 
Above all, the Persians were of Aryan stock, and early showed 
signs of the talent for governing older races which seems to have 
stuck to the Aryans throughout their history. They made 
excellent roads, and established swift running posts that did 
much to make communication easy between the most important 
parts of their empire ; while, as the satraps' standing armies 
were composed either of native Persians or hired mercenaries, 
the subject populations had an opportunity, rare enough in the 
ancient world, of peacefully developing their internal resources 
without constant fear of disturbance by foreign enemies, or 
forced participation in wars of aggression 2 . It was only when 
the word went forth from Babylon or Susa, Ecbatana or Perse- 
polis, for the calling-out of the Ban of the whole Empire that the 
other than Persian subject of Artaxerxes or Darius had to join 
the levy of his satrapy, and, on orders given to him through an 
interpreter, to assist the Great King in crushing some rebellious 
satrap or repelling foreign invasion. At other times, he must 
have known him only as a kind of divinity, having power to 
throw down and to set up, to whom he might cry, not always in 
vain, against the oppression of his own immediate ruler. Those 
writers are no doubt justified who say that the government 
of the Persian Empire was to the humbler classes of Asiatics 
a great improvement upon any that had preceded it 8 , and that 
the rule of the Great King never awoke the fierce resentment 
in its subjects aroused by the tyranny of the Semitic Assyrians, 
or of the Chaldeans who were, in great part, of Mongoloid blood 4 . 

1 He was probably allowed a reasonable sum for the maintenance of 
his court and government ; but if he exceeded this, was liable to severe 
punishment. This appears from the execution by Alexander, on his 
return from India, of the satraps who had been guilty of extortion. He 
seems to have purposely preserved the Persian laws and customs on this 
point unaltered. 

2 This is the opinion of Rawlinson, op. tit. pp. 460 sqq. 

3 Bawlinson, op. tit. p. 464 ; Winwood Beade, Martyrdom of Man, 
1910, p. 56 ; Sayoe, Antient Umpires of the East, 1884, pp. 250, 251 ; 
Maspero, op. tit, p. 721. 

4 Oppert, Le Peivple et la Langue des Medes, Paris, pp. 17 sqq. ; Maspero, 

P* <*"* P* &&> n - H* 



4 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

It was doubtless the memory of this golden age, glorified as 
remembrances generally are by the lapse of centuries, that 
brought about the reaction to the Persian form of government 
and culture which we shall have to discuss later in the countries 
bled white by the Roman proconsuls. 

Throughout this vast realm, Alexander's coming brought 
about a change such as the civilized world has never seen before 
or since. Among the world-conquerors who have been hailed 
as heroes in after times, Alexander surely the greatest indi- 
vidual known to history stands distinguished by the loftiness 
of his aims and the swiftness with which they were attained. 
It is wonderful that a boy of twenty with an army that cannot 
have exceeded 50,000 men all told should succeed in overcoming 
practically the whole of Asia in less time than it took the British 
Empire with the third of a million to break down the armed resis- 
tance of a few thousand Boers. More wonderful is it that he 
should a little later contrive to transport a force of about 100,000,, 
comprising infantry, cavalry and artillery, over the three 
thousand miles that separate Macedonia from Karachi, at the 
same time preserving such perfect communication with his base 
that he seems never to have remained for long without letters 
from Europe, while the stream of recruits that reached him from 
the same source must have been continuous and unchecked 1 . 
Such a feat which, with all the aid which steam and electricity 
can give us, would still tax to the utmost the powers of our 
greatest modern generals, becomes almost miraculous when we 
think that the greater part of his line of communications must 
have lain through recently subjugated lands, and that his own 

1 Sir Thomas Holdich, in his excellent book The Gates of India (p. 104)* 
says that when h defeated the Aspasians or Yusufzai in the Earner Valley 
he sent the pick of their cattle back to Macedonia to improve the native 
breed, Arrian, Anabasis, Bk iv. c. 25, however, in quoting the story from 
Ptolemy, says only that Alexander " wished to send them " to till the soil 
It seems impossible that they could haye survived the journey before the 
days of steamships. StiU more incredible is the story in Plutarch, Life of 
Alexander, c. L. that when Alexander was at Prophthasia (probably Farrah 
in Seistan), h received some grapes grown on the coast of Greece. But 
srach stories, although coloured by age, may serve to show how perfect his 
communications were always thought to have been. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 5 

advance led him into countries unmapped and known only to 
him by the half fabulous tales of his enemies 1 . But the most 
astonishing thing about these exploits is that they were all 
performed with the conscious aim of making Asia Greek 2 , and 
in this respect, as in all others, they were both original and 
successful. Everywhere that Alexander passed, he left behind 
him cities peopled by a mixture of his own veterans, of those 
camp followers which, then as now, have always stuck to a 
European army on the march, and of natives of the country 
either found on the spot or drawn from some other part of Asia ; 
and the permanence of these foundations still bears witness 
to the foreseeing eye of their founder. Alexandria in Egypt, 
Candahar, Secunderabad, all preserve to this day the memory 
of his royal name, and the continued importance of Khojend, 
Samarcand, Herat, Merv, and Cabul out of the many other 
Alexandrias that he established on his conquering way show 
that his statesmanlike perception of the chief markets of the 
East was as sure as his strategical insight 3 . Nor did he neglect 
other means of carrying out the great design that he had at 
heart. In the great feast at Susa, which he celebrated on his 
return from India, the " marriage of Europe and Asia," which 
had always formed his guiding idea, took visible shape. He 
had already weddedit is said for love the beautiful Koxana, 
a princess from Bactria in the Eastern (or Upper) Provinces 

1 Holdich, op. cit. passim, says that he must have had information 
from Persian, sources, and that his rout must have been laid beforehand. 
Sir Thomas' opinion, as that of a soldier as well as a student, is entitled to 
much respect. Yet the instances of Genghiz Khan and other Oriental 
invaders are perhaps against any such necessity. 

2 Freeman, Historical Essays, 1873, second series, pp 192, 193. 

8 Khojend was probably Alexandria eschata or the furthest (East). 
Samarcand, of which the ancient name was Maracanda, is said by Baber 
to be a foundation of Alexander's. Herat was Alexandria Ariana, and Merv 
probably Alexandria Margiana, while Cabul seems to have been Ortospana. 
Among the other Alexandrias which have retained their old importance 
are Alexandria Arachosiana or Candahar, Alexandria Caucasiana or Begram, 
and Alexandria Sogdiana or Hyderabad, See J. W. McCrindle, Invasion 
of India by Alexander the Great, 1896, pp. 36 sqq., and Broysen, Histoire de 
(French edition), Paris, 1883, i. pp. 408 sqq. 



6 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

of his new Empire 1 , and now he took as a second consort Statira, 
the daughter of Darius, who, as the scion of the last native king 
of Persia, may be taken as the representative of its western 
centre. Nearly a hundred of his superior officers and some ten 
thousand of his humbler followers hastened to follow his example 
and to receive Asiatic brides with the rich dowries assigned them 
by the Conqueror 2 . Moreover the thirty thousand youthful 
recruits from his new conquests, whom he had ordered five years 
before to be trained in the Macedonian discipline and the Greek 
language, now arrived 3 , and Alexander set to work with his 
usual energy to diffuse through his European army strong drafts 
of his Asiatic subjects in order to cement still farther the alliance 
between the two Continents. Had he lived, it would have been 
a mixed army of Asiatics and Europeans that he would have 
led the following year to the conquest of the western world 4 . 

Destiny, however, is, as men would have said in those days, 
stronger than the immortal gods, and Alexander's early death 
put an instant stop to all ideas of further conquest. It is idle, 
until we know the causes of things, to speculate on what might 
have been ; but it seems probable that if Nearchus' expedition 
had sailed, the Conqueror's warlike plans would once again have 
proved to have been perfectly laid, that he would have crushed 
Carthage as easily as Thebes and Tyre, and that the Italian 
States would have received the same master as the Bactrians and 
Indians 5 . Yet so far as our immediate purpose is concerned, 
Alexander's work was done once for all, and the policy typified 

1 Broysen, op. cit. p. 481. 

2 See last note. The second marriage is dramatically described by 
Broysen, op.^it. i. pp. 638, 639. Of. Arrian, Anabasis, Bk vn. c. 4; 
Plutarch, Alexander, c. LXX. 

3 Arrian, op. cit. Bk vn, c. 6 ; Plutarch, Alexander, c. i/xxi. Of. Broysen, 
op. tit. i. p. 646. 

4 Broysen, op. cit. i. p. 660. It was probably the fear of this mixture 
that caused the quarrel between Mm and his Macedonians at Opis. See 
Arrian, op. cit. Bk vii. c. 8 ; Plutarch, Alexander, c. LXXL 

5 Broysen, op. cit. n, p. 34. Mahaffy, Alexander's Empire, 1887, p. 38, 
thinks that the Romans could never have withstood Alexander's cavalry 
and siege artillery, although he notes that Livy patriotically decided other- 
wise. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 1 

as the marriage of Europe and Asia was perhaps as well served 
by his death as by his life. During Persian times, the Court of 
the Great King had always proved a magnet drawing to itself 
with irresistible force the ever-restless Greeks, and the road to 
Susa was trodden in turn by politicians like Alcibiades, leaders 
of mercenaries like Xenophon, and Greek philosophers, artists, 
and courtezans innumerable. The traffic in mercenaries alone 
must have been enormous when we find Greek troops forming 
the stiffening of those huge armies of Darius which Alexander 
overthrew at the Granicus, Issus, and Arbela 1 ; while as for 
the other sex, Themistocles, when turning his back on his own 
country, could find no better or safer mode of approaching the 
Persian Court than in a closed litter supposed to be conveying 
a Greek woman to the harem of the Great King 2 . But when the 
century-long wars for the succession to Alexander broke out 
upon his death, there straightway appeared five courts where 
before there had been but one, and these were now ruled over by 
Greek and not by Persian kings. Mercenaries of all kinds were 
in urgent demand in every one of them., while the setting free 
of the millions in bullion and specie found by Alexander in the 
Persian capitals caused an outbreak of luxury like that which 
followed in Germany the payment of the French milliards. 
Soon every Greek who had strength, beauty, or talents to sell 
was on foot to seek his or her fortune in Asia, and with them 
went everywhere the petty Greek trader, as enterprising and 
as fearless in pursuit of gain as those countrymen of his whose 
booths Lord Kitchener saw set up on the field of Omdurman 
before the rout of the Mahdists was complete, and whose 
locandas still greet one in the smallest villages on the Nile. 
The stream of fortune-hunters, now in full flood, quickly over- 
flowed from the ancient capitals to the numerous Antigonias, 
Antiochias, Lysimachias, Nicomedias, and Seleucias which the 
new kings everywhere founded in imitation of their dead master, 
and even the most distant provinces began to receive their 

1 Droysen, op. cit. T, pp. 186, 240, 333. There were 30,000 Greek 
mercenaries fighting on the side of Darius at Issus, and 4000 of these 
remained faithful till his death. Ibid. I. p, 368. 

2 Plutarch, Themistocles, c, xxvi. 



8 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

quota of Greek citizens and Greek culture. As has happened 
more than once in history, Asia woke suddenly from her sleep, 
and acquired a veneer of foreign manners in hardly longer time 
than it has taken Japan in our own days to adopt European 
armaments, teaching and dress. When the Parthians overcame 
Crassus, the Roman captives found the barbarian victors 
amusing themselves with the plays of Euripides 1 ; while the 
Bactrian and Indian provinces, which the rise of the Parthian 
power cut off from the western part of Alexander's Empire, 
conceived such a taste for Greek art that the statues of Buddha 
with which their capitals were afterwards decorated were carved 
according to Greek instead of Hindu canons 2 . The so-called 
Indo-Greek kings of these parts, the Euthydemi, Diodoti, and 
Eucratidae, of whom we know hardly more than the names, 
no more thought of using other than Greek designs and in- 
scriptions for their coins than did the rulers of Pergamum or 
Antioch 3 . The generation that had seen Alexander face to 
face was hardly in its grave before the marriage of Europe and 
Asia had become a very real and pregnant fact. 

The importance of this for the history of religions can 
hardly be exaggerated. Greek was spoken everywhere through- 
out Asia, and for the first time in the world's history the 
inhabitants of the civilized part of the earth had a common 
tongue in which they could communicate their ideas to each 
other. No doubt the language spoken by the offspring of 

1 Plutarch, Crassus, c. xxxm. The play acted was the Bacchae, and 
a Greek tragic actor, one Jason of Tralles, had been imported for the 
principal part. In the essay De Alex, fortitudine, I. c. 5, Plutarch says 
that no sooner had Alexander subdued Asia than Homer became a favourite 
reading-book, and Persian, Susianan, and Gedrosian boys learned to chant 
the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides. 

3 Droysen, op. tit. nr. pp. 244, 255. 

Sylvain Le*vi, "Bouddhisme et les Grecs," Kevue de PHistoire des 
Religions, 1891, p. 2 ; Percy Gardner, Catalogue of Bactrian and Indian 
Coins m British Museum, Arts other than the plastic also received 
attention. Amitrochates, son of the famous Chandragupta or Sandra^ 
cottus, wrote to Antiochus (Soter ?) to buy him some sweet wine, 
dried figs, and a sophist. He received the other commodities, but was 
told that it was not lawful to sell sophists in Greece. See Athena/ens, 
Deipnosopkistae, Bk xiv. c. 67 quoting Hegesander. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 9 

Greek colonists and their native spouses was not the tongue 
of Sophocles or of Demosthenes any more than it was " the 
strong-winged music of Homer " ; but it was a better medium 
for the transmission of metaphysical theories than the founder 
of any world-religion has ever had at his disposal before or 
since. The missionaries whom modern nations send into the 
distant parts of the earth for the propagation of the Christian 
faith find one of their worst difficulties in the impossibility of 
rendering its doctrines into the languages of peoples at another 
stage of culture from themselves ; but no such barrier between 
teacher and taught existed in the empire created by Alexander's 
genius. The result of this possibility of intercommunication of 
ideas was at once apparent. Anxious to show that they too 
had a pedigree, the older nations of the world seized the 
opportunity to inform their new masters of their own history 
and traditions ; and, as all history was in those days sacred 
history, they thus introduced to the Greeks their gods and 
their beliefs as to the divine governance of the world. The 
sacred books of the Chaldeans, of the Egyptians, of the 
Jews, and no doubt of many other peoples whose records 
are now lost to us, were translated into Greek ; and thus the 
science of the history of religions was born. Writers like 
Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch are still our chief guides for the 
religions of the earliest populated parts of the ancient world ; 
but how could these compilers have handed down to us the 
traditions they have preserved save for writers like Berossus, 
Manetho, and Philo of Byblus, who themselves wrote in Greek 1 
Plutarch tells us that when he spent a year in Rome during the 
reign of Trajan, he did not find it necessary to learn Latin, his 
native tongue being apparently understood by everybody. One 
may wonder how much of the sayings and doings of the Founder 
of Christianity would have come down to us, had they not been 
first recorded in the fcoivr} or lingua franca of the whole Bast 1 . 
" There were, however, other ways in which Alexander's con- 
quests prepared the way for a religion which could make appeal 

1 Droysen, op. cit> in. p. 66. Cf . the Omnis Oriens loquitur of St Jerome 
ProL ad Epist. ad Oalatas ; and Deissmaxm, New Light on the New Testament 
(English edition), 1907, p. 30. 



10 The Conquests oj Alexander [OH. 

to men of every nation and language. Nothing is more difficult 
for those brought up in a monotheistic faith, with its inbred 
contempt for the worshippers of many gods, than to realize how 
the ancients regarded the Divine. The peoples of classical anti- 
quity seem to have everywhere believed in the gods of their 
neighbours as absolutely as they did in their own, for they 
imagined that their deities had, like men, only a limited sphere 
of action, or, to put it scientifically, were subject to the same 
conditions of space as their worshippers. Thus, the Syrians 
thought that Yahweh of Israel was a mountain god, who could 
not help his people when fighting in the plains 1 , and the Phi- 
listines believed that the ark in which he lived would bring 
prosperity or disaster to the place in which it happened to be 
for the time being 2 . This is almost an exact parallel to the 
tale of the prince of Bactria, whose daughter was freed from 
demoniacal possession by an image of the Egyptian god Khonsu 
sent into Asia ad hoc, whereupon he decided that it would be 
wise to keep so powerful a god in his own country, and did so 
until frightened by a dream into sending the statue back 3 . 
But such ideas, however natural they may be to isolated or 
backward peoples, soon lost their hold upon the acute and 
logical Greeks, when they came into contact with civilized 
nations having pantheons differing widely from their own. 
The philosophers, indeed, by dint of hard reasoning on the 
subject, had formed before the time of Alexander a conception 
of the Supreme Being which does not differ materially from 
that of the educated Christian of the present day. " Loyal," 
says Pater, " to the ancient beliefs, the ancient usages, of the 
religions of many gods which he had found all around him, 
Socrates pierces through it to one unmistakable Person, of 
perfect intelligence, power, and goodness who takes note of 
him 4 " ; and the same thing might be said with even greater 
certainty of the deductions of Aristotle 5 , whose declared 

1 1 Kings xx. 23. 2 1 Sam. iv. 6, 7. 

3 Maspero, "La Mile du Prince de Bakbtan" in Conies Popuhires de 
PAncienne Sgypte, Paris, p. 359. 

4 Pater, Plato and Platonim, 1901, pp. 85, 86. 
s Aristotle, M&taphysica, Bk xi. c. 6. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 11 

monotheism caused him to be adopted in the Middle Ages as one 
of the Doctors of the Church. But there is no reason to believe 
that such lofty conceptions ever influenced in the slightest the 
beliefs of the common people^ who alone count for anything in 
the evolution of the organized body of beliefs and practices 
which we call a religion. Socrates so successfully concealed 
his opinions in this respect from everybody but Plato, that 
the clear and practical mind of Xenophon seems to have never 
seen in him anything but a polytheist 1 : and that Aristotle's 
monotheistic teachings were not intended for the common herd 
may be judged from the correspondence, whether actual or 
imaginary, between him and Alexander himself, in which the 
hero reproaches his former tutor for having published doc- 
trines which should only be taught by word of mouth, and 
learns in reply that his metaphysical theories would be unin- 
telligible save to those whom he had himself instructed in 
philosophy 2 . 

It is evident, therefore, that the great mass of Alexander's 
subjects, whether Asiatics, Egyptians or Greeks, would require 
something more than the sublime theorizing of the philosophers 
before their religious ideas could be turned in the direction of 
monotheism. Nine hundred years before, Amenhotep IV of 
Egypt had indeed been led by his adoration of the material 
sun to put forward a religious reform which had as its principal 
feature the proclaiming abroad that there was only one God, 
in whose sight all mankind was equal ; but the sole effect of 
this premature attempt to elevate the religion of his people 
was the loss of the external possessions of Egypt, and the post- 
humous branding of his own memory as that of a criminal. 
Possibly, too, the Hebrew Psalmists and Prophets had formed 
a like conception of the Deity when they asserted that among 
the gods there was none like unto Yahweh 3 ; but that this 

1 Xenophon, Memorabilia, Bk i. c, 1, 1-5. 

2 Plutarch, Alexander, c. vn. 

8 So F. H, Woods, The Hope of Israel, Edinburgh, 1896, p. 205, where 
he speaks of the religion of the Prophets and Psalmists, as "giving, on 
the whole, by far the most perfect and, as compared with other ancient 
literature, practically a unique example of monotheism." Yet as Winwood 



12 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

idea seldom penetrated to their hearers is plain from their 
incessant denunciation of these last for " whoring after " other 
gods. The mere announcement of the unity of God had there- 
fore in itself an insufficient attraction for the masses, and for 
the doctrine to be popular they had to be led to it by other 
ways than those of argument or authority. Now Aristotle 
noted with his usual shrewdness of observation that the form 
of religion in a state generally follows with fair closeness that 
of its temporal government 1 , so that men will be more inclined 
to believe in what the Greeks called " monarchy," or the active 
rule of One First Cause, if they live under a despot or absolute 
king than if they are members of a democracy. But when 
did the world either before or after his time see such a bene- 
ficent and godlike despot as Alexander ? The robber-kings 
of Assyria had been accustomed to sweep across Western Asia- 
leaving behind them, as they boasted in their inscriptions, a 
trail of vassal rulers impaled or flayed alive, of burnt cities, 
and of plundered peoples. The Persians, as has been said, 
had more idea of the rights of their inferiors, and did not re- 
gard their subject territories as mere fields for exploitation ; 
but the life of sensual luxury into which their kings sooner 
or later subsided had its natural outcome in harem intrigues 
and assassinations which deprived the central power of a great 
part of its otherwise effective control over its satraps. But 
Alexander was in this, as in all other respects, the perfect type 
of the benevolent master who thinks more of his servants' 
welfare than of his own personal gratification. Neither his 
mother Olympias, domineering and masterful as she was, nor 
his first mistress Barsine the widow of Memnon, nor his wife 
Eoxana of whom he is said to have been enamoured, nor the 
Persian princess Statira to whom he gave his hand out of policy, 
could boast that they ever influenced by one hairsbreadth the 
direction of his sovereign will As for his justice, the swift 



Read points out, Solomon must have thought there were other gods than 
Yahweh, because he worshipped other gods ; op. ciL awpra, p, 20L 

1 Aristotle, Politico,, Bfc I. o. 2, 7. Of, Max Muller, Religions of India 
(Hibbert Lectures), 1880, p. 292. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 13 

punishment that he measured out on his return from India to 
those of his officers whom he found guilty of oppression and 
malversation showed that under his far-seeing eye there would 
be none of those abuses of delegated power from which the 
satrapial system had suffered under his predecessors 1 . Modern 
historians have sometimes called him cruel ; but in political 
ipatters severity is often the truest mercy, and the blood that 
he shed at Thebes and in Bactria probably saved a hundred 
times the number of lives which unchecked rebellion would 
have made, it necessary to sacrifice ; while the accidental and 
unpremeditated death of Clitus may well be pardoned to one 
who found not only his dignity as man but his royal authority 
wantonly outraged by a friend whom he had distinguished by 
exceptional marks of kindness. In every other respect his 
record is stainless. Although opposed at every step of his 
short career by orators and demagogues who saw in him the 
only obstacle to their unrestrained plunder of the fatherland, 
no legend has survived to his dishonour. On the contrary, 
all that we hear of him shows us for the first time in the world's 
history a conqueror who was at the same time a just and wise 
ruler, merciful to his fallen foe, scorning even in war to take 
mean advantage 2 , and chivalrous to the weak to a degree that 
his age could neither understand nor imitate 3 . And with all 
this 5 he united in his own person those superficial advantages 
which have always been quick to win for their possessor the 
devotion of the mob. To a talent for generalship which neither 
Hannibal, Caesar, nor any modern general has equalled, he 
joined a personal bravery which often reached the level of 
recklessness and was always to be found in the forefront of 
the hottest battle. Whether we see him charging at the head 
of the Companion cavalry in the three great battles with Darius, 
pursuing with a handful of his guard the routed Persian army 

after Arbela, or first over the wall at Mooltan, Alexander is 

/ 

1 Arrian, op. tit Bk VI. c. 27. 

2 See bis repudiation of the night attack advised at Arbela: ov 
KXewro* rfjv vinrjv, "I steal no victory!" Plutarch, A lexander, c. xxxi. 

3 Plutarch, op. cit, c. xxi. and c. xxx. 



14 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

always performing these feats of hardihood which in a leader 
strike more than anything the imagination of his soldiers. Add 
to this a generosity which made him willing to strip himself of 
his possessions to enrich his friends, a personal delight in that 
pomp and pageantry which forms the most direct road to the 
hearts of the proletariat, and a form, face and figure so dis- 
tinguished that their one defect was for centuries after imitated 
by all who wished to be thought models of manly beauty 1 , and 
we can no longer wonder that his contemporaries looked upon 
him as more than human. This wise and provident ruler of 
the world that he had conquered was at the same time a youth 
beautiful as Apollo, chivalrous as Bayard, clean as Galahad. 
Is it surprising that his name alone of all the conquerors of 
the East has endured through all changes of creed and culture, 
that the fierce chiefs of the Central Asian tableland still boast 
of him as their progenitor, and that the whole Mahommedan 
world still hold him the king of the believing Genii ? No 
Caesar, Attila, or Genghiz Khan has ever thus impressed the 
imagination of future ages 2 . 

Thus Alexander's coming gave an enormous impulse to that 
monarchical principle of government which from his time on- 
ward was to reign supreme for nearly two thousand years. 
Philosophers and sophists hastened to declare that democracy 
as was indeed the fact had proved itself incapable of 
governing, and that in the rule of one man was to be found the 
natural order of things and the only security for a well-ordered 
State 3 . Every one of the Diadochi or Successors of Alexander 

1 The wry neck or, in Mr Hogarth's words, cc the famous inclination 
of his beautiful head towards the left shoulder " was imitated by dandies 
as late as the time of Severus. For authorities see Hogarth, Philip and 
Alexander of Macedon, 1897, p. 278, n. 2. 

2 Droysen, op, cit. I. p. 218 and p. 479, n. 1. Major P. EL Sykes lately 
found an inscription in Khorassan to Sulayxnan Shah who reigned from 
1667-1694 A,D,J containing the words " His audience-chamber is the Sun ; 
his Army the Stars ; his authority is like Alexander's," Journal of the 
Moyal Asiatic Society, 1910, pp. 1152, 1153. 

s Bouche-Leclercq, Hist, des Lagides, Paris, 1. 1. p. 130, n. 2, points out 
that there was hardly a philosopher during the next three centuries who 
did not write a treatise n/ji rvjs / 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 15 

hurried in turn to assume the diadem, and Rome had no sooner 
contrived to crush her rival republic of Carthage than she too 
fell under the sway, first of dictators whose power was ad- 
mittedly despotic, and then of emperors whose constitutional 
limitations were about the same as those of Alexander. That 
this was certain in time to react upon the universal conception 
of the Divine, followed directly from the law underlying re- 
ligious phenomena which had been enunciated by Aristotle : 
but, before this could make way among the Greeks, thus 
suddenly promoted to the position of the ruling race, it was 
necessary that their own gods should be assimilated to those 
of their eastern fellow-sjibiects,. ox J& other words, should be 
shown toHbre *th& .same divinities under difierent .names* Now, 
a movement with this object, even before Alexander's coming, 
had been set on foot in Greece itself, and was in fact the natural 
outcome of the ideas as to the origin and governance of the 
universe brought there by the philosophers of Ionia 1 . It was 
all very well for the masses then as now, much given to 
pragmatism or the reduction of every abstract idea to its most 
material and practical expression to believe that the power 
of every god was limited to an area of so many square feet 
surrounding his image or sanctuary ; but how could such a 
notion be held by philosophers who had sought out the causes 
of things, by travellers who had visited neighbouring countries 
in pursuit of knowledge, or by soldiers who had fought there, 
and had found it necessary to pay reverence to gods other 
than their own ? It is said that in naturalistic religions like 
those of Greece, there is always a tendency to consider as iden- 
tical divinities with the same or like characteristics to consider 
for instance all gods with solar attributes as but different forms 
of the sun-god and the Greeks of the fourth century B.C. 
had thus taken many foreign gods into their pantheon. It 
was, as Socrates found out to his cost, an offence to bring the 
worship of new gods into the city j but the difficulty was got 

1 A parallel movement seems to have taken place in Babylonia, where 
all the gods were at one period identified with Marduk or Merodaeh. See 
Pinches, " Religious Ideas of the Babylonians,'* Transactions of the Victoria 
Institute 1893, p. 10. 



16 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

over by the theory that the foreign divinity was only another 
form of some god already worshipped by the citizens 1 , and 
by keeping his cult as private as possible. Later, when the 
popularity of the new deity seemed to be assured, an oracle of 
Delphi was generally secured authorizing the adoption of his 
worship under the name of his nearest Greek analogue, and in 
this way many foreign worships were brought into Athens 
itself 2 . Bendis, the moon-goddess of Thrace, had there from 
early times a temple or Bendideion 3 , and the Syrian Adonis 
was publicly wailed for in the city when Alcibiades was setting 
out fox Sicily 4 . This, too, was the more natural because the 
Greeks always acknowledged that their older divinities ori- 
ginally came to them from foreign parts. The myths in which 
the traditions of their origins were preserved gave Crete or 
Asia Minor as the birthplace of Zeus, an island in the Aegean 
as that of Apollo and Artemis, and the whole scene of the earthly 
trials o Demeter and Persephone was laid partly in Eleusis and 
partly in Asia 5 . As for Africa, Herodotus boldly asserts that 
the *' names " ol almost all the gods worshipped by the Greeks 
came from Egypt 6 , and, although this is certainly not literally 
true, it gave him an excuse for identifying all the Egyptian 
deities of whom he had any knowledge with the Greek divini- 
ties whom he thought they resembled. But when Alex- 
ander's conquests had made the different subject nations really 
acquainted with each other's religion, the process of theocrasia 
or the fusion of one god with another received an impulse that 
carried it beyond all bounds 7 . The divinities of Asia Minor 
were naturally the first to be taken into the Greek pantheon, 
especially by the Athenians, always mindful of their Ionian 

1 Maury, Histoire des Religions de la Gr&ce Antique, Paris, 1857, in. p. 73. 

2 Demosthenes, v. Midias, p. 53 ; Herodotus, Bk vn. c. 189. Such 
gods were called by the peculiar epithet of 7rv6dxP r )" roL ee inscription 
from Smyrna quoted by Rayet, Rewie Arckdologique, 1877, pp. 115-128. 

8 Xenophon, Hellenica, Bk n. c. 4. 

4 Plutarch, Akibiades, c. cxvm. Of, Aristophanes, Lysistrata, 
1L 387 sqq. 

B Homeric Hymn to Demeter, passim. 

6 Herodotus, Bk re, c, 50. 

7 Droysen, op. at. i. p. 698. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 17 

kinship ; and the many-breasted goddess of Ephesus, Cybele 
of Pessinus with her consort Atys or Attis, and the Sidonian 
Astarte, were all worshipped in Greece after identification 
with different Greek deities in the manner that had served to 
naturalize the " Thracian " or Thessalian Dionysos, and the 
(probably) Egyptian Hermes 1 . As we shall see later, the 
Phrygian Sabazius and the Cretan Zagreus had already pre- 
ceded them in secret, and Persian, Jewish, and perhaps Indian 
gods were to follow. From Greece, the passion for theocrasia, 
spread both eastward and westward. The Greek kings of 
Upper India found it necessary to identify on their monuments 
the gods of their native subjects with the divinities of Homer 2 , 
and those of the Central Provinces and of Asia Minor did the 
same with such effect that it is almost impossible for us to 
distinguish their many Artemises, Aphrodites, and different 
forms of Zeus from the gods worshipped under similar names 
in ancient Greece 3 . As for the West, the Romans, even before 
they became the masters of the world, took over the Greek 
pantheon en "bloc by the simple process of calling their own 
Italian deities by Greek names ; and if we still speak of Zeus 
as Jupiter, Athena as Minerva, Ares as Mars, and Hermes as 
Mercury, it is by reason of the syncretism brought into fashion 
by Alexander's conquests. 

Neither must we forget that the deification of Alexander 
during his lifetime brought an entirely new conception of the 
Divine into the European world. The divinization of the king 
was indeed no new thing in Egypt, where the Pharaoh from 

1 See Maury, Eel, de la Grece, t. KL cc. 15, 16, Aristophanes, Horae 
fragment 1 of Bidot, and Aves, 1. 874, is practically the earliest witness 
for their introduction into Athens. Of. the Scholiast upon the last 
passage quoted, for their identification with Greek deities. M. Paul 
Foucart, Les Associations Heligieuses chez les Grecs, Paris, 1873, pp, 57 and 
85, show's the great rush of foreign gods into Attica after the Persian War 
and the mode in which their worship was propagated. 

2 Percy Gardner, Catalogue of Coins, etc., passim. Goblet d'Alviella, 
Ce que VInde doit a la Grece, Paris, 1897, p. 73, notes that these coins repro- 
duce " the usual type of the classical divinities Hercules, Dionysos, Poseidon, 
Helios, Pallas, Artemis, Nike." 

3 Droysen, op. cit. m. p. 73. 



18 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

the earliest times was looked upon, after Ms enthronement as 
the living form of the sun-god Horas ; but to the religious ideas 
of the Greeks it was evidently a surprising shock. The dis- 
tinguishing attribute of a Greek god was his deathlessness or 
incorruptibility ; and although heroes like Theseus and Heracles 
were fabled to have become immortal and therefore fit subjects 
for worship, this was only because they were in the natural way 
the progeny of the gods themselves, and as such were taken 
iato heaven by their fathers after death and the purging away 
of their mortal nature 1 . Alexander, on the other hand, de- 
manded from the Greeks as from his other subjects divine 
honours during his life, and these were accorded to him with 
servile readiness by the governments of Athens and other 
Greek city-states, the Spartans not excepted 2 . What he meant 
exactly by this demand it would be hard to say, because his 
supposed sonship to Amen on which it was ostensibly based, was, 
as Sir Gaston Maspero has shown, merely the form by which, 
on a change of dynasty, the priests of Amen were accustomed 
to legitimize the accession to the throne of a king who could 
show no right thereto but force 3 . It is evident, too, that 
Alexander did not himself take his deification very seriously, 
since he allowed its propriety to be discussed before him at a 
wine-party 4 ; and his apologists, Arrian and Plutarch, are pos- 
sibly well-founded when they declare that it was a mere political 
device to secure the grudging obedience of his Macedonian 
countrymen 5 . But his successors in this matter went far 
beyond him. Ptolemy and Arsinoe, without any pretence of 
divine descent, were proclaimed " Saviour-gods " for th&ir Greek 
as well as for their Egyptian subjects quite apart from any 

1 Callisthenes appears to have used this argument against the deifica- 
tion of Alexander during Ms lifetime, Arrian, Anabasis, Bk iv. c. 11. Cf. 
Budge, Pseudo Callistkenetf History of Alexander t"he Great, Cambridge, 
1889, Bk in. o. 19, p. 135 ; Plutarch, Pelopidas, c. xvr. 

2 Droysen, op* cit. I. p. 668. 

3 Maspero, ** Comment Alexandre devenait Dieu." Annvtaire de PlScote 
des Hawtes ffitudes, Paris, 1897 ; id. tit. Sgyptol. t. vx pp. 286 sqq. 

4 Mr Hogarth, PMlip and Alexander, pp. 197 sqq. rightly points out that 
he never instituted any cult of himself, as did Demetrius Poliorcetes. 

5 Plutarch, Alexander, o. XXYTU ; Arrian, Anabasis, Bk vir. c. 29, 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 19 

identification of themselves with Horus or any other native deity. 
Antigonus, when claiming to be the strategos or generalissimo of 
the whole Empire, was hailed as a god, which drew from the 
rough old king a repartee more pointed than decent 1 . So, too, 
was his son, Demetrius the City Taker, although at the time of 
his deification he had not even an independent kingdom of his 
own, but was merely ruling Greece as the viceroy of his father. 
And the b&rr iers between the Divine and the human being thus 
broken dpyna* men's minds soon became so familiar with the 
idea that they not only thought men might become gods, but 
declared that the gods were only deified meft. The Athenians 
m the hymns that they sang to Demetrius declared that he was 
the only true god, and that the others were either asleep or too 
far off to be taken into account, or were not really gods at all 2 . 
But it is not with impunity that the religious ideas of a people 
can be thus suddenly and violently affronted. Within a few 
years from Alexander's death, Cassander's friend and envoy 
Euhemerus put forward, with the aid of a literary fraud some- 
thing like that of Psalmanazar, the theory that all the gods 
worshipped by the Greeks had once been kings or at least dis- 
tinguished men and women upon earth 3 a doctrine that was 
received with as much enthusiasm in the Eome of the Republic 
as it once evoked in our own days among the followers of Herbert 
Spencer 4 . Later, the Epicurean philosophy, with its happy 
gods neither interfering with nor caring about the doings of 
mankind, came to the assistance of this rather crude atheism. 
Although the Stoic philosophers in their turn tried to introduce 
a more lofty idea of the Deity, it was probably not until late 
Roman times that they ever obtained anything like a grip 
on the people. Whether for good or ill, it is certain that the 
Greeks after Alexander's death never returned to the simple 

1 Plutarch, de Is. et Os, c, xxiv ; id. Apopkthegmata Antigen. 7. Of. 
Droysen, op. dt. n. p. 295. Mr Tarn in his Antigonos Gonatas, Oxford, 1913, 
p, 251, would transfer the story to his grandson, but his reasoning is not 
convincing. 

2 Athenaeus, Deipnosoph. Bk vi. c. 62. 
8 Droysen, op. cit. m. p. 22 and note 2. 

4 Euhemeras' work was one of the first Greek books to be translated 
into Latin. See Cicero, De Nat. Deor, c. 42, 

22 



20 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

faith, in their national gods which, had sufficed for their fore- 
fathers. 

This is a point that it is important to remember, because 
without it, it is hard to understand the passion for innovation 
in religious matters which seems for the next three centuries 
to possess unchecked sway over mankind. It appeared as if 
Alexander, who indeed had made all things new, had set free 
the gods of the ancient world to wander from one end of his 
Empire to the other, and the desire to proselytize appears for 
the first time in the world's history. Buddhism must have been 
prevalent in India for nearly a century before Alexander ; but 
when it became the religion of the state in the reign of Asoka, 
grandson of that Chandragupta or Sandracottus who had talked 
with Alexander face to face, the Indian king boasted that he 
had sent out missionaries for the propagation of his new faith 
to the courts of Antiochus of Syria, Ptolemy of Egypt, Anti- 
gonus of Macedonia, Magas of Gyrene and Alexander of Epirus 1 . 
Whether the Indian missionaries ever reached the kings to 
whom they were sent may be doubted, and it is certain that 
these last did not pay the attention to them that Asoka claims ; 
but it is quite possible that to the impulse given by such mis- 
sions may be attributed some of the practices of the Jewish 
sect of the Essenes, and perhaps the monastic seclusion afiected 
by certain worshippers of the Alexandrian god Serapis 2 . But 
if Buddhism could thus find its way westward from so distant 
a country as India, how much more must this have been the 
case with the other Oriental religions with which the Greeks 
had already some slight acquaintance, and which, as we shall 
see in the sequel, poured into Europe in such a flood that 
Juvenal compared it to the Orontes emptying itself into the 
Tiber. That the Greeks, ever eager for some new thing, were 
quick to avail themselves of the new ideas thus thrust upon 
them was only to be expected. But this rage for novelty was 



1 Droysen, op. cit. m. p. 341, n. 3. Rhys Davids, BuddM&t India, 
1903, p. 298, thinks it possible that the missions although duly recorded 
on stone were never sent. 

2 See Chapter II infra. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 21 

too violent to be content to follow the slow process of assimi- 
lation or theocrasia which, was prevalent before Alexander. 
Eeligious associations for the worship of foreign gods were 
formed in which we may, if we like, see the first germs of the 
Christian Church 1 . In these each member had to pay a sub- 
scription towards the expenses of the cult, and the office- 
bearers instead of being appointed by the State were either 
taken from the members in rotation or chosen by lot. 
That these confraternities, as we should now call them, 
were at first composed of natives of countries other than Greece 
is shown by their clustering in the port of the Piraeus as the 
quarter where foreigners naturally congregated 2 ; and their 
male members for the most part consisted of slaves, freedmen, 
and stranger merchants, who thus found a meeting-place in 
what was to them a foreign country. Their worship too was 
secret or rather was confined to members of the confraternity 
only, while its correctness of form was preserved by means of 
written books or rituals, thereby presenting many points of 
resemblance to that of the later Gnostics. But the super- 
stitious, and especially the women who were always in Greece 
much addicted to theoxenia or the reception of strange gods, 
were early attracted by them, and they soon spread to every 
great city in the Empire. Thus we see for the first time in 
history bodies of men and women banded together, irrespective 
of nationality and social rank, for the purpose of religious 
observances, and religion becoming recognized as the affair of 
the individual rather than of the state, while each member of 
the association was directly interested in its extension. In 
this way, the Greeks became worshippers not only of their own 
sufficiently numerous deities but of those of well nigh the whole 
East as well. Their inscriptions show that Persian, Phrygian, 
and Lydian gods were worshipped by these associations, 
together with a whole crowd of Semitic deities among whom, 



1 Foucart, Les Associations Beligieuses, etc., pp. 66-84. Cf. Maury, 
Eel Ae la Grtce, n. p. 427. The composition of hymns was peculiarly the 
care of these associations ; Eoucart, op. cit. p. 114, 

2 Foucart, op. tit. p. 85. 



22 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

If M. Cumont is right, there may even have been included the 
God of Israel 1 . 

The influence that these confraternities exercised in 
familiarizing the minds of the Greek citizens with the re- 
ligious practices and tenets of foreign countries must have 
been very great. Every such association had a temple of its 
own, in which it offered sacrifices to its own particular god. 
But, after providing for this, the greater part of the subscrip- 
tions went in providing a periodical banquet at which its 
members could meet for social intercourse, and to which they 
were no doubt sometimes allowed to bring guests. But at 
these gatherings, as apparently at all others of the confrater- 
nity, all were equal, and there were no distinctions of rank. 
Moreover, in addition to the foreign members for whom the 
institution was originally designed, they must early have begun 
to admit Greeks ; and these were generally, though not always, 
persons who were in the first instance led to them by a leaning 
to foreign superstitions, and particularly to that orgiastic ritual 
with which the worship of the Asiatic gods was generally 
associated in Greek minds. It is noteworthy that among the 
Greek names inscribed upon the stelae containing the lists of 
members that have come down to us, those of women are far 
more numerous than those of men. Yet they seldom seem 
to have been of the highest class in their own community, 
and it is difficult to conceive of a Greek matron leaving her 
gynaeceum to take part with slaves and freedmen in nocturnal 
feasts or orgies. Among those whom we know otherwise as 
belonging to these confraternities are Phryne the celebrated 
courtezan, Tryphera and Aristion, who followed the same 
manner of life 2 , and Glaucothea the mother of JSschines and 
a perfume-seller, a trade then considered as disreputable as in 
the reign of Louis XIV 3 . On the other hand, it seems to follow 
from what Plutarch says, that King Philip of Macedon first saw 

1 Franz Cumont, " Hypsistos," Revue de V Instruction publique en Bel- 
gique, 1897, pp. 5-6; id. Lea Religions Orientates dans le Paganisme 
Romain, Paris, 1906, p. 155 and note. 

2 Foucart, Ass. Eel. pp. 135, 136, 158. 

3 See Chapter IV infra. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 23 

and loved Olympias, mother of Alexander, at a meeting of one 
of these confraternities 1 , and it is possible that outside Greece 
proper they lost something of their disreputable associations. 
It must not be supposed, however, that these associations 
concerned themselves entirely with what we now call religion. 
The state, in cities like Athens, regarded them with great jea- 
lousy, and did its best to prevent them from forming a hierarchy 
by stipulating that their officers should only hold office for a 
year. This naturally prevented any continuity of policy such 
as a corporation like the priesthood of Amen could pursue, and 
set their chiefs upon making hay while the sun shone. Ignorant 
and degraded as most of their "members were, and generally 
engaged in the pursuit of gain, it is not astonishing that they 
should thus have lent themselves to the worst and most danger- 
ous because most profitable superstitions. The priests and 
especially the priestesses of the confraternities were always 
ready to lend themselves to the practices of divination and 
magic, to the sale of love-philtres and poisons 2 , the interpre- 
tations of dreams and miraculous cures. To these charlatans 
came everyone who wanted his or her fortune told, or who 
wished to get rid of a rival, or to obtain the favour of a dis- 
dainful lover, or was simply tormented with idle fears or by 
some bodily disease incurable by regular means. 

" The set of charlatans and market-men who hang about and 
wait round the altars of the Great Mother and Serapis ; and who 
manufacture oracles either out of their own heads or by haphazard 
out of certain books for the benefit of house-slaves and silly women" 

is the contemptuous way in which Plutarch describes these 
impostors 3 . Yet even in this way much was doubtless done 
to spread the knowledge of foreign religions ; for many 
must have resorted to the foreign temples for magic or 
divination who would never have thought of joining the 
association by which they were maintained, and in magic it is 

1 Plutarch, Alexander 9 c. u. 

2 See Foucart, op. tit. p. 158, for the cases of Ninos and Theoris, priest- 
esses who were condemned for such traffic. 

3 Plutarch, Pythian Mesponses, c. xxv. 



24 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

always the least known gods and those worshipped by the races 
of lowest culture who are thought to be the most powerful. 
Moreover, many of these associations in time purified them- 
selves by a sort of process of elimination from these undesirable 
accessories, and, so soon as they succeeded in attracting the 
adhesion of a sufficient number of respectable people, managed 
to get the god they were formed to worship enrolled among the 
native deities of the state or city. It was in this way that 
foreign gods like Serapis and Mithras, from being the divinities 
of a handfiil of foreign slaves, merchants or hostages, came, as 
we shall see, to occupy the highest places in the national 
worship of the Roman Empire. Thus Lueian tells us the story 
of the impostor Alexander of Abonoteichos, who with the help 
of a tame serpent with a cardboard mask gave himself out as 
the priest of an incarnation of Asklepios the Greek god of 
healing, and founded an association for its worship in Nicomedia 
in Bithynia. Later, he persuaded one Rutilianus, a man of 
consular -rank who seems to have had influence at the Court 
of Marcus Aurelius, to join him in the propagation of his new 
cult and even to marry his daughter 1 . But the worship that 
he thus set up must have afterwards been recognized by the city 
of Nicomedia, for we find the representation of its god Glycon 
upon a Nicomedian coin of the time of the Emperor Gordian, 
the husband of Tranquillina 2 . 

It was apparently in these avssociations that the new spirit 
now manifest in the religion of the ancient world began to take 
organized shape. Among the Persians and Egyptians the 
priests were officers of state living on the property of their 
several corporations, and therefore with a natural leaning, 
except in the rare cases where their privileges or property 
were threatened by the Crown, against all innovations and 
interference with the established order of things. Among 
the Greeks, both in Hellas itself and in her colonies oversea, 
the priests with a very few exceptions were chosen from the 

1 Lueian, Alexander or Pseitdomantis, passim. The story is well sum- 
marized by Sir Samuel Dill, in Nero to Marcm, pp. 473 sqq. 

2 Leon Fivel,"Le Dieu Glycon & NicoinMe," Gazette Arch&L 1879, 
p. 186. 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 25 

native-born citizens at large either for their personal beauty, 
or for the wealth which enabled them to give in honour of the 
gods magnificent pageants and other festivals 1 . In no case 
did they regard themselves as having any teaching or pastoral 
mission, and were in no way interested in increasing the number 
of the worshippers of the god to whose service they were elected 
for a short term. Hence, their chief preoccupation was to 
keep strictly to precedent in the celebration of the public acts 
of worship entrusted to them, and they would have looked with 
horror on any alteration of the traditional rites. But in the 
associations founded for the worship of foreign gods, affairs 
were conducted on utterly different lines. There seems to have 
been a healthy spirit of emulation among the successive holders 
of the priestly office, for the vote of thanks inscribed on marble 
and displayed in the temple for the admiration of the confra- 
ternity was the distinction most sought after by them, and the 
deprivation of it was the most serious penalty exacted for dere- 
liction of duty 2 . In order to obtain these rewards, it is plain 
that the officers had to carry out to the full the Apostolic 
injunction to be all things to all men, and there is actually a 
case on record where a priestess is praised because during her 
term of office she has oSended nobody. This complaisance 
seems to have extended itself from the officials to the deities 
worshipped, who seem often to have been quite willing to 
fulfil a double office, and to appear as Aphrodite or Astarte 
to the Syrian and as Cybele to the Phrygian members of the 
association 3 . By these means, they made it possible for 
several nationalities to belong to the same association. 

There was probably, however, a more intellectual side to 
this spirit of accommodation. All, or nearly all, of these 
associations celebrated mysteries or sacred dramas based on the 
same lines as the Eleusinian and setting forth, it would seem, 
the passion, death, and resurrection of some god. These 
plays, when we consider the relatively slender number of the 

1 Mattry, Eel, de la Grtee, n. pp. 418 sqq. Cf. Ddllinger, JudeniJmm und 
Heid&tfhwn (English edition), i. p. 214. 

2 Foucart, Ass. Mel pp. 33-35. 

3 Id. op. tit. pp. 150, 151. 



26 The Conquests of Alexander [OH. 

initiates and the limited means at their disposal, must gene- 
rally have been acted with maimed and abbreviated rites in 
which a good deal was left to the imagination of the beholder. 
But this very fact must have set the always curious and inquisi- 
tive Greeks upon enquiry into the nature and origin of the 
scenes thus indicated rather than acted, and this in its turn 
must have led to many discussions and explanations of the gods 
there portrayed. For such conversations, too, there must have 
been far greater opportunities in the case of those ihia&i, 
orgeones* or erani (as these associations were called), where 
members were few and in the habit of meeting each other daily 
than with the Eleusinian rites which were celebrated only once 
or twice a year and then in the presence of a huge crowd 
dispersed immediately after to the different parts of the Hellenic 
world. It is hardly putting it too strongly to say that anything 
like propagandism must have been confined to the smaller 
societies. 

To sum up, then, Alexander united the whole civilized 
world for the first time under a single head and gave to it a 
common language and culture. By the natural gifts of his 
extraordinary personality, he at the same time set before it a 
perfect model of kingship and thus ensured the persistence of 
the monarchical principle for two millenia. This, his con- 
scious work, had a direct effect on the evolution of monotheism, 
while in other respects his conquests proved the turning point 
in the history of religions. By breaking down the barriers 
which racial and lingual divisions had hitherto set up between 
different nations of the earth, these conquests led to a great 
fusion of the religions hitherto professed by them, and thus 
opened the door to the world-religions which were afterwards 
to share between them his vast Empire. Before his coming 
we see the ancient world divided into separate communities 
each with its own pantheon and forms of worship and neither 
knowing nor caring greatly about those of its neighbours. But 
immediately after, all this is changed. The interchange of 
ideas between East and West has thrown the different religions 
of the world as it were into a melting-pot, in which the germs 
of a different grouping of the human race are dimly visible. The 



i] The Conquests of Alexander 27 

spirit of proselytism is abroad, and man now wants to impress 
his own ideas of the Divine upon his fellows. Above all, we 
see the beginning of those great associations of mankind for 
religious purposes which are henceforth to be the principal 
factors in the world's history, and whose evolution has con- 
tinued unchecked down to the present day. All those that 
followed Alexander were in this respect nothing more than Ms 
conscious or unconscious imitators. The great princes and 
generals who after his death parted his Empire among them, 
and the Eomans who gradually ate- up the fragments left to 
these princes' effete descendants, could but carry on the work 
set on foot by the Great Conqueror. As Mr Hogarth has said, 
very little that he did was ever undone, and for good or 
ill, he has taken his place among the immortals 1 . Thus, from 
the scientific point of view, there is none among the forerunners 
of Christianity who did more to prepare and make ready its 
way than Alexander. 

1 Hogarth, PMip and Alexander, pp. 277, 282. Ci BoucM-Leclercq 
in Broysen, op. tit. i. p. vii. 



CHAPTER II 

THE ALEXANDRIAN DIVINITIES 

WHEN Alexander's marshals began Immediately after his 
death to divide his Empire among them, and Ptolemy the son 
of Lagos claimed and received for his share the province of 
Egypt, his more ambitious fellows must have smiled at his 
moderation. Egypt was an acquisition that had never been 
properly assimilated by the Persians, and although subjugated 
by Cambyses very early in their history, had more than once 
broken out into successful rebellion. Its inhabitants, then as 
now, were a race separated from the rest of the world by 
peculiarities of climate, devotedly attached to their own tradi- 
tional institutions, and bitterly and obstinately hostile to the 
foreigner. Moreover, the enormous resources of the country 
were undeveloped, the importance of its new capital of 
Alexandria as the natural entrep6t of trade between East and 
West 1 had not then been made manifest, and the agricultural 
wealth which was afterwards to make Egypt the granary of 
Europe had been ruined by civil commotions and foreign 
invasions. Although Alexander was hailed by the Egyptians 
as a deliverer, and, like other conquerors before and after 
him, found little difficulty in coming to terms with the 
colleges of greedy and unpatriotic priests who were ready 
to welcome any foreign master so long as their own position 
was assured 2 , he seems to have felt less interest in the unwarlike 
and Borvilefellahin than in the free warriors of Bactria and India 
who had fought so gallantly against him. Hence, he paid little 

1 Bouch-Leclercq, Histoire des Lagides, Paris, 1903 etc. t. r. p. 121. Dr 
Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptokmies, 1895, p. 11, thinks differently, but the 
importance of the city to the present day is against him. 

2 Boch-Leelercq, op. tit. t. i. p. 104. Ci Mahaffy, E.P. p. 4. 



OH. n] The Alexandrian Divinities 29 

attention to their government, and Cleomenes, the ruler lie had 
set over Egypt, thus found himself free to practise extortion 
on a scale which would certainly have brought down upon him 
the condign vengeance of his master had it taken place further 
east 1 . Or perhaps the Great Conqueror, among whose gifts 
the habit of attending to everything in its turn must certainly 
be reckoned, thought it well to let all things grow together till 
the harvest, in the consciousness that the campaign in Arabia, 
on which he was bent when struck down by the fatal fever, 
would bring him close to the confines of Egypt and therefore 
in a position to investigate on the spot the complaints against 
Cleomenes which had already come to his ears. Be this as it 
may, one of Ptolemy's first acts on reaching his satrapy was to 
seize Cleomenes and to put him to death, a proceeding which 
had, we learn, the full approval of his new subjects. This was 
but the earliest of a long list of benefits which his rule was to 
confer upon them, and which under his successors were to raise 
Egypt to a greater height of prosperity than she had ever enjoyed 
under her native Pharaohs. 

It soon became evident also, that in choosing Egypt for his 
portion Ptolemy knew very well what he was about. While 
its western frontier was the Libyan desert and its southern 
was guarded by the cataracts, its northern coast was so badly off 
for harbours as to make it difficult to attack by sea, and it 
was practically unassailable from the east save at the Pelusiac 
or Port Said mouth of the Nile, and then only by an enemy 
marching through Syria 2 . Ptolemy, therefore, had ample time 
to consolidate his power by annexing Cyrene, making friends 
in his turn with the Egyptian priesthoods, and spending the 
money raised by Cleomenes 5 exactions in the enlistment of 
an army of mercenaries 3 . He also waylaid the body of Alex- 
ander on its way to the tombs of the Macedonian kings at Aegae, 
and installed it in a splendid sepulchre called the Sema at 

1 Droysen, Hist, de l y HdlM$me 9 1, rr. p. 96 ; Bouch^-Leclercq, op. tit. 
t, I. pp, 13, 14 ; Mahaffy, JB7. P. p, 25. 

2 As Demetrius the City-Taker, found to his cost. Of. Mahafly, J2,P. 
p. 57. 

3 Droysen, op. tit* I. p. 14 ; Bonch^-Leclercq, op. cit. I. p. 15* 



30 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

Alexandria, thereby securing to himself, in the opinion of the 
time, a talisman of great power 1 . It was not long before the 
wisdom of these preparations was put to the proof ; for, two 
years after Alexander's death, Perdiccas, the Eegent of the 
Empire, had the new satrap tried in his absence for treason, 
and led a great army out of Asia Minor by way of Damascus 
to attack him. He found Ptolemy waiting for him in force at 
Pelusium, and after some of the royal troops had gone over to 
the enemy, and those under Perdiccas in person had suffered 
a severe repulse near Bubastis, Perdiccas was deposed and 
murdered 2 . The new settlement of the Empire which followed 
at Triparadeisos confirmed Ptolemy in the possession of Egypt, 
and left him in comparative peace to organize a kingdom which 
only ended three centuries later with Cleopatra 3 . 

Of the able and statesmanlike measures which Ptolemy took 
towards this end, only one need concern us here. The plan may 
have been Alexander's own, for no one was more likely to know 
Alexander's later mind than Ptolemy, who had been his master's 
companion from his youth, had shared his exile when banished 
by Philip, and had distinguished himself in India as one of his 
most trusted lieutenants. It is not impossible that among 
Alexander's plans for the government of his Empire, a religion 
common to both Greek and barbarian may have been included ; 
for it is difficult otherwise to explain the active part that he 
took in the different religious observances of all his subjects, 
while the constant inquisitiveness concerning them which he 
showed can hardly have been merely archaeological 4 . At all 
events, soon after Ptolemy found himself secure in the pos- 
session of Egypt, he set himself to work to found a religion that 
should unite both his Greek and his Egyptian subjects in the 
bonds of a common faith. At first sight, no two things can 
seem more dissimilar than the religions of the two nations ; 
but there was one point where they drew very near to each 
other, and it was to this that Ptolemy addressed himself. 

1 Droysen, op. cit. n. p. 103. 

2 Bouch^-Leolercq, Hist, des Lag. I. pp. 24, 25. 3 Ibid. i. p. 26. 
4 Droysen, op. eft. i. pp. 346, 699, 670. Cf. D. G. Hogarth, Philip and 

Alexander, p, 144. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 31 

Now religion in Egypt had always been very much in the 
hands of a professional priesthood who here, as elsewhere in 
Africa, formed organized corporations greedy for political sway, 
and sometimes proved more powerful than the king himself 1 . 
So far as the monuments show, the first of these corporations 
in point of time was that of the worshippers of the sun-god Ea, 
the chief seat of whose worship was Amm, On, or Heliopolis 
in the Delta. Its members were apparently the religious 
advisers of the vth or Pyramid-building Dynasty, and to them 
must be attributed the earliest or Heliopolitan recension of 
the Book of the Dead engraved on the walls of the chambers in 
the Saqqarah Pyramids, This corporation seems to have 
flourished unchecked until thoBksosneit^but was suc- 



ceeded, when the invaders were cast out, by that of the priests 
of^Ajn^xx-QlThebes who, after pxushing the ' tf heresy " or religious 
revolt of King Amenhotep IV, gradually became the supreme 
power in the state, and established the theocracy or rule of the 
priest-kings, under which Egypt went rapidly down the hill. 
The decadence was stayed for a time by an uprising of the 
Libyan mercenaries, who placed their leader Sheshonq or 
Shishak, Solomon's suzerain, upon the throne, and thus founded 
the xxund Dynasty. The deposed corporation of Amen there- 
upon transferred themselves to Ethiopia or Nubia, where they 
established a theocracy on the model of that at Thebes, and 
whence they returned later with an army of Sudanese to again 
enslave their native country. But Piankhi and his Ethiopians 
found themselves unable to ride Egypt from Napata, and when 
they finally retired behind the Cataracts, there was a brief but 
brilliant revival of old Egyptian ideas under the Saite or Phil- 
hellene kings of the Delta, who called in Greek and Carian 
mercenaries to the support of their throne. It was in their 
time that Herodotus visited the country, and Egypt began 

1 As when they seized the throne of Egypt at the close of the xxth 
Dynasty. So in Nubia in the time of the Ptolemies, the king was a mere 
puppet in the hands of the priests, who used to send him word when they 
thought that he had reigned long enough. For the story of Ergamenes 
(Ark-amen), who put an end to their rule, see Diodorus Siculus, m. 6. 3, 
or Budge, Histvry of Egypt, 1899, voL vm. pp. 166 tqq. 



32 The Alexandrian Divinities [on. 

again to play its part in the stirring events then fast coming 
upon Western Asia. It seems probable also that raider them, 
the religious corporations, among whom the priests of Ptah of 
Memphis, one of the oldest of the gods of Egypt, for the first 
time take a prominent place, regained the influence which they 
had never wholly lost. Then came the Persian invasion, and 
although Egypt made more than one successful attempt to shake 
off the yoke of the foreigners, it was at last riveted firmly on her 
neck. After the flight of ISTectanebo, the last king of the xxxth 
Dynasty, she was never again ruled by a prince of Egyptian 
blood 1 . 

During this long period which is often quoted, not without 
reason, as the classic instance of the evils attending the Priest 
in Power the mass of the Egyptian people had clung firmly 
to the worship of one god whose vogue goes back to very early 
times. While the rich and powerful were raising temples to 
Ra and Amen and showering wealth upon their priesthoods, the 
poorer classes remained faithful to Osiris and the gods of his 
cycle with such effect that most of the other divinities found 
it necessary to include him in their own cults. In the very earliest 
recension of the Book of the Dead, we find Osiris invoked to- 
gether with Ra in a way that gives no hint that one has any 
superiority over the other 2 ; in the great recension of the xviuth 
Dynasty, Osiris and Ra, already made into the " king of the 
gods " by his union with Amen, are said to have " joined souls " 
and become one 3 ; and in the Saitic period, Osiris became united 
with Ptah and a very ancient divinity called Seker, in a triune 
deity called Ptah-Seker- Osiris to whom everyone looked for 
happiness after death 4 . So, when the bull Apis came to be 

1 See Breasted, History of Egypt, New York, 1909, passim ; cf. Budge, 
op. tit, 

2 Wiedemann, The Ancient Egyptian Doctrine of the Immortality of the 
Soul, 1895, p. viii ; Maspero, J&. Sgyptol. i. pp. 123, 167 ; ibid. n. p, 196, n. 1. 

3 Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, 1904, i. pp. 148, 149 ; Erman, Handbook 
of Egyptian Religion, 1906, p. 81. 

4 Erman, op. cit. p. 188. The fusion of Osiris with Ptah and Seker 
was a good deal older than the Saites. Cf. Wiedemann, Religion of 
the Ancient Egyptians, 1897, pp. 134, 135 ; Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian 

s New York, 1911, 1. p. 45. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 33 

adored, lie was said to be the " life of Osiris," meaning probably 
his earthly incarnation 1 , and there is fairly good evidence that 
Osiris had long before absorbed into himself the personality 
of several older deities, such as Khent-Amentit " Lord of 
Amenti," and Apuat " the opener of the ways 2 . 55 It is plain, 
therefore, that the practice of theocmna which we have seen 
rife among the Greeks was known to the Egyptians from the 
very earliest times 3 . Yet, all this was effected without there 
ever having been a special priesthood or college of priests of 
Osiris such as undoubtedly existed in the case of Ka, Amen, 
and probably Ptah. It seems really a case of the survival of 
the fittest, or, in other words, of the choice by the Egyptian 
people of the worship of the god best suited to their wants, in 
spite of the well-meant attempts of their rulers to draw their 
attention to other deities. 

The reason for this obstinacy of choice is perhaps to be found 
in the legend or myth of Osiris, which was at once more con- 
sistent and more direct in its appeal to human sympathies than 
those handed down concerning the other gods of Egypt. We are 
told that Osiris was the first-born of Nut the sky-goddess by 
Geb the earth-god, that he appeared upon earth as a man among 
men, and became king of Egypt, which he ruled wisely and well, 
teaching the Egyptians the art of agriculture, giving them just 
laws, and instructing them in the proper worship of the gods. 
Later, he travelled over the whole earth, civilizing and subduing 
the nations not by force of arms but by persuasion and especially 
by the art of music which he took with him. On Ms return, 
he was entrapped and murdered by his jealous brother Set or 
Typhon who, with the aid of seventy-two conspirators and an 
Ethiopian queen called Aso, shut him up in a coffin and threw 
him into the Nile, by which his body was carried out to sea. 

1 Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, n. p. 196. 

2 Budge, G.E. n. pp. 118, 156, 264. So Naville, Journal of Egyptian 
Archaeology, 1914, pp. 7, 8. M. Maspero thinks Apuat was originally god 
of Siut and only a temple-companion of Osiris at Abydos, Rev. Critique, 
1904, pt 2, pp. 194, 195. 

3 Steindorff, Religion of the Ancient Egyptians, New York, 1905, 
p. 53 j Erman, H.E.& pp. 56, 57; NaviUe, The Old Egyptian Faith, 
1906, pp. 146, 147. 

L. 3 



34 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

We further learn that his sister-wife Isis, who had reigned in 
his stead during his absence, mourned greatly for his loss and 
wandered far and wide seeking and lamenting Mm, until she 
heard from some children that the coffin containing his remains 
had been carried away by the Tanitic mouth of the Nile. Fol- 
lowing this, she found that it had been washed ashore at Byblus 
in Phoenicia and had been overgrown by a magnificent tamarisk, 
which the king of the country had had cut down and made into 
the roof- tree or pillar supporting his house. Then Isis disguised 
herself as a servant and became the nurse of the king's son, 
whom she would have made immortal but for the timidity of 
his mother, who cried out when she saw the child surrounded 
by the flames which were to burn away his mortality. On this, 
the goddess revealed herself, took away the pillar containing the 
coffin, and attempted to revive the corpse that it contained 
by her embrace. Afterwards, she gave birth to her son Horus, 
whom she destined from his cradle to be the avenger of his father. 
Meanwhile, the murderer Set had seized the throne of Egypt, 
and while hunting by moonlight came across the corpse of 
Osiris, which he tore into fourteen pieces, and scattered them 
throughout the land. Consequently Isis, who was at the time 
visiting Horus at nurse in her city of Buto, had to begin again 
her wanderings, sailing over the swamps in a boat of papyrus, 
and burying the fragments of the body of Osiris wherever she 
found them. One part, however, she could not find, this having 
been thrown into the Nile and devoured by fishes ; and hence- 
forth Osiris became king of the Underworld, where he rules 
for ever over the dead, welcoming those who successfully win 
through the ordeal of the judgment that all must undergo, 
and providing for them a happy life like that which the rich 
live on earth, in which agriculture plays a prominent part. 
Then Horus grew up to man's estate, and having provided 
himself with horse, fought three desperate battles with Set, 
many of whose followers came over to him. But, although 
he defeated his foe, he did not put an end to his existence, and 
Set still lives, haunting the deserts and wild places, and even, 
according to one variant of the story, ruling for a time over the 
south of Egypt (or perhaps only a part of it), while the sway of 



nj The Alexandrian Divinities 35 

Horus over the north remained unchallenged. As for the other 
gods of the cycle, Nephthys, the twin sister and reflection of Isis, 
was the wife of Set, but preferred to throw in her lot with Osiris, 
by whom she had a son, Anubis the jackal, the messengerof Osiris, 
who possessed many of the attributes of the Greek Hermes. So, 
too, Thoth, the ibis, was the judge who pronounced, or perhaps 
merely recorded, the final partition or arrangement between 
Horus and Set, and most of the other members of the Egyptian 
Pantheon were brought into the cycle one way or the other. 

This is the legend of Osiris, as we find it in the tract de Iside 
el Osiride, which is generally attributed to Plutarch and was 
certainly written in the first century A.B. It has not been met 
with earlier in a connected form ; but its main incidents are 
sufficiently corroborated by the monuments of the time to con- 
vince us that it fairly represents the popular belief of the 
Egyptians during the Ptolemaic period 1 . Plutarch, or the 
writer who assumed his name, gives us more than one explana- 
tion of it coupled with analogies drawn from other mythologies, 
which exhibit considerable archaeological knowledge and show 
us how far the comparative study of religions had proceeded 
even in his time. When he fails, it is generally from lack of 
acquaintance with the earlier forms of the religions of Egypt, 
which had evidently become in those days as much a mystery 
to the priests as to their flocks, and which the labours of modern 
Egyptologists have but recently begun to recover for us. Looked 
at by their light, and stripped of its many transparent incon- 
sistencies and anachronisms, it seems plain that the story is 
not simple but compound, and represents an attempt to fuse 
together the religious ideas either of different peoples or of the 
same people at different stages of culture 2 . In the first place, 

1 Am&lineau, Essai sur le Gnosticisme ffigyptien, Paris, 1887, p. 144; 
Budge, "Papyrus of Nesi-Amsu," in Archaeologia, 1890, pt 2, p. 404; 
Maspero, The Dawn of Civilization, 1894, pp. 172-174; Erman, H.E.R. 
p. 32; Budge, G.E, n. p. 150. Manifest allusions to the legend are to 
be found in the Pyramid Texts. Cf. Maspero, Les Inscriptions des 
Pyramides de Saqqardh, Paris, 1894, pp. 105 sqq. 

2 This idea is treated at length in " The Legend of Osiris " in the Pro- 
ceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1911, pp. 139-154. See also 
" The Greek Worship of Serapis and Isis," P.S.B.A. 1914, pp. 79 sqq. 

32 



36 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

we see in it the animal gods of Egypt Horus the falcon, Set 
the unknown animal or scha sacred to him, Anubis the jackal, 
and Thoth the ibis whom we now know to have been the totems 
or rallying-signs of the different tribes who invaded Egypt, 
probably from other parts of Africa, in predynastic times. 
The Sche$~Hor or Followers of Horns are so often alluded to 
in early dynastic texts that there can be no doubt that the 
tribe who had the falcon for their banner were originally the 
royal or leading tribe of these invaders. The memory of this 
fact was preserved in the custom, going back to the beginning 
of the ist Dynasty, which assigned to the ruler of Egypt on 
his coronation a special name differing from that by which he 
was usually known, and borne in a rectangle representing the 
fagade or front of a palace surmounted by a hawk 1 . Recent 
excavations at Abydos in Upper Egypt have shown that this 
custom was only once broken in the long course of Egyptian 
history, when a king of the und or mrd Dynasty, whose 
name is read Perabsen, cast out the falcon from above the 
sreJch or rectangle containing his " hawk " or Horus name, 
and crowned it instead with the animal representing Set. 
This breach of conventional usage whether significant of a 
political or a religious revolution or of some predominating 
foreign influence cannot be exactly determined was healed by 
his immediate successor Khasekhmui, who bore both tie falcon 
and the Set-animal above his srekh with an inscription pro- 
claiming himself " He who has caused the two gods to be at 
peace " ; after which the rulers of Egypt returned to the hawk- 
crowned srekk, which was never again abandoned down to the 
last-known example under the Roman emperors. We may 
assume then that the fundamental stratum of the Osiris legend 
was a tradition more or less historical which preserved the 
memory of a struggle for supremacy occurring in the earliest 
historical times between the tribes represented by Horus and 
Set respectively. As the horse was a late comer into Egypt, and 
seems to have been introduced there by the Bedouins of the 
Sinaitic peninsula, where Perabsen's predecessors left their 

1 See " The Titles of the Thinite Kings" in P.S.B.A. 1908, pp. 86-94,. 
121-128, 163-177. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 87 

inscriptions, we may even read into it the statement that, 
while the Horus or falcon tribe were helped in the war by 
Bedouin cavalry, the followers of Set sought aid from the 
Nubian or " Ethiopian " tribes above the Cataracts 1 . 

To this foundation, however, there must have been added 
a myth conceived by a race in possession of a much higher 
degree of culture and greater imaginative powers than any 
with which the predynastic or protodynastic Egyptians can 
be credited. The earliest gods of Egypt of whom we have any 
record were, as we have seen, either animals or inanimate objects, 
a fact which is sufficiently explained by their totemic origin 2 . 
But spread throughout the basin of the Mediterranean, we find 
from the earliest times the worship of a god who was from his 
birth never anything but a man and a man who suffered a 
veritable death and passion before his resurrection and deifica- 
tion. Thus, in Crete we have the legend of the infant Zagreus, 
son of Zeus and Persephone, who was treacherously seized by 
the earth-born Titans, torn in pieces, and devoured, but was 
afterwards reborn as Dionysos to reign over gods and men 3 . So, 
too, in Cyprus, Syria, and Phoenicia, we hear of Adonis, the 
lover of Aphrodite, done to death by the boar's tusk, but return- 
ing yearly from the shades to spend part of the year with his 
mistress. In Asia Minor, again, was told the story of Atys, 
lover of Cybele, mother of the gods, who fatally mutilated 
himself in a fit of madness, but after death was resuscitated, 
and thereafter reigned with Cybele over all Nature. All these 
three legends bear too close a resemblance to that of Osiris for 
the four to have grown up independently, and although the 
point is not free from doubt, it is improbable that Egypt was 

1 In Plutarch's time the Ethiopians had a queen called Candace as in 
Acts viii 27. Of. Strabo, Bk xvn. c. 1, 54. One wonders whether 
Plutarch in speaking of Aso did not confuse this title with an epithet 
of Thueris, the hippopotamus-goddess and wife of Set, who is called in 
a late magical text "Thueris, the great of sorcery, cat of Ethiopia," 
See Griffith and Thompson, Stories of the High Priests of Memphis, 
Oxford, 1900, p. 91. 

2 This is most clearly shown by M. Victor Loret in ItSgypte an Temps du 
Totemisme, Paris, 1906, passim. Cf. the same author's articles in Rev* 
figyptol 1902 and 1904. s See Chapter IV, infra. 



38 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

the source from which the others were derived 1 . No direct 
connection in ancient times can be traced between Egypt and 
the inland country of Phrygia, which seems to be the birthplace 
of the majority of these legends ; while it is of great importance 
to remember that Isis, Osiris' queen and sister, is represented 
in the early Egyptian myths as merely a magician or witch 
cunning in spells 2 , whereas in the Phrygian and Syrian legends 
the consort of the dying god is the " mother of all living " or 
in other words Nature herself. It seems therefore probable 
that the legend of Osiris, like so many other things in Egypt, 
was African as to its body, but Asiatic or European as to its 
head. 

It was therefore natural that in this legend of Osiris, Ptolemy 
should find the desired point of contact between the religions 
of the Egyptians and the Greeks. The religious institution 
which commanded the most respect among the Greeks of his 
time was undoubtedly the Mysteries of Eleusis 3 , which were 
yearly celebrated with a circumstance that drew upon them the 
attention of the whole Hellenic world. Messengers went forth 
every year from Eleusis to all countries where Athenians could 
be found, to proclaim the Sacred Truce that was to ensure 
peace during the celebration of the Mysteries. Then on the 
appointed day in September, enormous numbers of Greeks from 
all parts of the world gathered together in Athens for a festival 
that lasted for nearly two weeks. First came the assembly of 
the worshippers and the proclamation of the hierophant that 
none but those unpolluted by crime and of intelligible speech 
(i.e. not barbarians) might take part in the Mysteries. Then 

1 See " The Greek Worship of Serapis and Isis," P.S.B.A. 1914, pp. 94- 
98, for this culture god of the Eastern Mediterranean. The original home 
of the myth was, possibly, Babylonia. Of. " Legend of Osiris " in P.S.B.A, 
1911, quoted above. 

2 See the story of Ra and Isis, Budge, G.E. pp. 360 sqq. 

3 By far the best and most consistent account of the Eleusinian Mysteries 
is that given by M, Paul Foucart in his three memoirs, Recherches sur 
Forigine et la nature des Mysteres $$leusis, Les Grands My&t&res d'ffileusis, 
and Le Culte de Dionysos en Attique. All these appeared in the Memoires 
of the Acad&nie des Inscriptions, tt. xxxv. (1895), xxxvn. (1900), and 
xxxvm. (1904) respectively. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 39 

followed the solemn procession when the sacred objects, upon 
which none but the initiated might look, were brought from 
Eleusis under strong guard and lodged in the Eleusinion at the 
foot of the Acropolis, their arrival being formally notified to 
the priestess of Athena, the tutelary deity of the city. Next 
was made the proclamation of "To the sea, the initiates ! " 
when all who were to take part in the ceremonies descended 
to the harbour of Phalerum 1 to wash themselves and the 
animals intended for sacrifice in the salt water, in the belief 
that, as Euripides said, " Sea-waves wash away all sin. 55 After 
a time spent in sacrificing and austerities very proper for 
bringing the worshippers into a receptive state of mind, there 
was formed the long procession which paced the Sacred Way, 
twelve miles long, from Athens to Eleusis, beguiling the road 
with hymns and choruses addressed to lacchos, the infant 
Dionysos 2 , who was supposed to lead the procession from his 
Athenian temple, the laccheion, with a pause at the bridge 
over the Cephisus, where the crowd exchanged coarse jokes and 
sarcasms in a manner peculiarly Attic. Then came the arrival 
by night of the procession at the Telesterion or Hall of Initiations 
at Eleusis, the sky above which was made light by the glare of 
the torches 3 . There, after more sacrifices, a sacred banquet, 
in which it is not impossible that the mystic cyceon or con- 
secrated drink was partaken of, and sacrifices in the temples of 
Demeter, of Hades, and of Persephone with which the Hall was 
surrounded, the initiates were shown a sacred drama, like the 
mystery-plays of the Middle Ages, acted by the priests of the 
cult, whose office, contrary to the custom of Greek cults generally, 
was confined to two families in which it was hereditary and 
highly paid. This drama, the details of which were kept strictly 
secret and can only be gathered from hints appearing in writers 

1 Foucart, Les Grands Mysteres, p. 113. 

2 lacchos was identified with Dionysos at least as early as the time of 
Sophocles. Of. Antigone, 31. 1130 sqq. f and Dyer, The Gods in Greece, 1891, 
p. 133. Very likely, as M. Foucart suggests, he was originally the 
personification of the cry repeated by the procession of the initiated. See 
Grds. Myst. p. 122. 

3 It had an opening in the roof for this purpose. Foucart, Grds. Myst. 
p. 137. 



40 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

of a comparatively late date, seems to have set forth the Rape 
of Persephone, daughter of Demeter the earth-goddess, who 
was known and worshipped throughout Greece and her colonies 
as the teacher of agriculture and giver of laws to mortals. The 
initiates saw " with their own eyes " the capture of Persephone, 
when playing with her companions in the sunny fields of Eleusis 1 , 
by Hades or Pluto the king of the dead, who takes her to his 
own gloomy abode beneath the earth, and the wanderings of 
Demeter in search of her lost child. Then they were shown 
how Demeter came to the house of Celeus, king of Eleusis, how 
she became nurse to the king's child Demophoon, and was 
detected by his mother attempting to burn away his mortal 
part in the way which the Egyptian legend attributed to Tsis 2 . 
The next act, probably reserved for epopts or initiates of the 
second year only, exhibited the union of Zeus with Demeter 3 , 
and the birth from the latter of a mysterious child in whom 
some see the lacchos who conducted the procession from Athens 
to Eleusis, but who was certainly Dionysos in one or other of 
his forms 4 . We know also that the initiates took part in 

1 So Clement of Alexandria, Protrepticus, c. n. The scene of the 
Rape is laid in many different places. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter 
calls it " the Mysian plain," meaning probably Mysia in Asia Minor. A 
scholiast on Hesiod puts it in Sicily, Bacchylides in Crete, Orpheus in 
" the parts about Ocean," Phanodemus in Attica, Demades in " woodland 
glades." See Abel, Orphica, Fragm. 212, p. 239. Cf. Maury, Religions de 
la Orece Antique, 1. 1. p. 479. 

2 Homeric Hymn to Demeter. 

* Foucart, Myst. $M. p. 49 ; id. Grds. Myst. pp. 68, 69. 

* M. Foucart, Gulte de Dion. pp. 55-60, will not allow that lacchos was 
ever identified with Dionysos and believes him to have been only the genius 
that led the procession. Dyer, on the other hand (op. cit. p. 128), 
makes lacchos the young or second Dionysos born of Semele. But Aris- 
tophanes, Frogs, L 321, and Strabo, Bk x. c. 10 (p. 402 Didot), both give 
him a higher position in the Mysteries than M. Foucart would assign to him, 
and the older opinion that he was the child whose birth was there shown 
seems to hold good. Cf. Maury, Eel. de G. A. t. n. p. 341, and Arrian, 
Anabasis, Bk n. c. 16, 3 (p. 50, Didot), So Stephani, Oompte Eendu de 
la Commission Imperiale Archfologique, 1859 (St Petersburg), p. 37, where 
monumental evidence is given in its support. Cf. Daremberg and Saglio, 
Diet, des Antiquitfa, s.v. Eleusinia (by F. Lenormant) ; Clem. Alex. Pro- 
trept. c. n. ; Libanius, v7re/> *&pKrro<t>dvovs 9 vol. I. pp. 447, 448 (Reiske). 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 41 

wanderings in dark passages and over obstacles and difficulties, 
which, were supposed to give them an idea of the sufferings of 
the uninitiated dead in the next world, and that they were then 
restored to upper air in a blaze of brilliant light, were shown the 
mysterious objects brought with such care from Eleusis to Athens 
and back again, were given a glimpse of the beatitudes awaiting 
the dead who had been initiated in their lifetime, and were at the 
same time instructed in certain mysterious phrases or formulas 
which it seems fair to conclude they were to treasure as pass- 
words through the realms of Hades 1 . It seems probable from 
this that the initiates were supposed to accompany Hermes the 
Psych opomp or " leader of souls " as the messenger of Zeus 
to the underworld, there to accomplish the deliverance of 
Persephone and to witness her restoration to the heavenly 
regions where she was again united to her sorrowing mother. 
Finally, there appeared Triptolemus, Celeus' son and Demeter's 
pupil, setting out in his car drawn by serpents to spread the 
knowledge of agriculture throughout the world, " an ear of corn 
reaped in silence " being, as we learn from a Christian writer, 
the " mighty and wonderful and most perfect mystery" 
exhibited to the highest degree of initiates 2 . 

It will be noticed that we have spoken hitherto of initiates ; 
for none might enter the Telesterion unless they had previously 
been initiated, and two young Acarnanians who unwittingly 
did so were formally tried for sacrilege and put to death 8 . This 
initiation, or entry into the ranks of those privileged to behold 
these wonderful sights, began at the Little Mysteries, which 
were celebrated six or seven months before the Great or 
Eleusinian Mysteries properly so called, at Agra on the left bank 
of the Ilissus. These mysteries of Agra were under the control 
of the same sacred families as the Mysteries of Eleusis, for which. 



1 Foucart, Myst. ff$L p. 66. 

2 Hippolytns, Philosophumena, Bk v. c. I, p. 171, Cruice. The whole 
drama is described by Foucart, Myst. d?$L pp. 43-74 e?.u 

3 Livy, XXXL 14. Of. Foucart, Grds. Myst. p. 94. They betrayed 
themselres by asking questions which showed they had not been initiated. 
Hence the hpd or sacred objects could hardly haye been statues, as some 
have thought. 



42 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

they formed a necessary pieparation. They were kept, if 
possible, even more strictly secret than the Great Mysteries, 
and the only direct evidence that has come down to us as to 
their nature tells us that they also took the form of a sacred 
drama, and that the scenes there enacted were taken from the 
legend of Dionysos 1 . This Dionysos, however, was not in the 
first instance the Theban god of wine born from Semele and 
celebrated by the poets, but his Cretan namesake Dionysos 
Zagreus or " the hunter," who was said to have been begotten 
by Zeus in the form of a serpent upon his own daughter Perse- 
phone, and while still a child was, as has been mentioned above, 
torn in pieces by the earth-born Titans from jealousy at hearing 
that the child was to be made the ruler of the world. It was 
also said that the scattered members of the baby-god were 
collected by Demeter, put together and revivified, a myth which 
late researches seem to show was alluded to in the Anthesteria, 
a festival celebrated in the Dionysion at Athens in the same 
Anthesterioii or " flower month " as the Little Mysteries. 
There is much reason to think that the Anthesteria showed 
forth in a manner unintelligible to the beholders unless other- 
wise acquainted with the details of the legend, the putting- 
together of the different members said to be fourteen in 
number of the infant Dionysos, his subsequent resurrection, 
and his marriage with a priestess called "the Queen" who doubt- 
less represented Demeter or Persephone. The inference seems 
unavoidable that it was some part of this legend that was acted 
in a manner impossible to misunderstand or mistake before the 
eyes of those admitted to the Little Mysteries 2 . 



1 Foucart, CuUe de Dion. p. 68 ; Stephen of Byzantium in Hesychius, 
Mymologium Magnum, s.v. *&yp<u. Cf. Maury, ReL de la Grtoe Ant. n. 
p. 324. All that Stephen says is that here was acted a pantomime O^/io) 
of the things that happened to Dionysos. 

2 All these ceremonies of the Anthesteria are reconstructed and de- 
scribed by M. Foucart, Oulte de Dion. pp. 107-163. That the tearing in 
pieces of Dionysos and the consequent origin of man was taught in the 
Little Mysteries seems to follow from Pindar's words (Threnoi Frag. x. 
7, p. 102, Cod. Bo.) that those who have been initiated have seen " the 
God-given beginning of life." Transmigration seems to have been also 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 43 

We see then that between the legend of Osiris as told by 
Plutarch, and the legend of Eleusis as set forth in the Mysteries 
there were resemblances so close as to make it almost impossible 
that one should not be derived from the other, unless we are 
prepared to consider them as having a common origin. As 
Osiris was torn into fourteen pieces, so was Dionysos, the 
difference in the agents of this " diaspasm," as it was called, 
being due to the exigencies of Egyptian traditional history* 
The wanderings of Isis, again, find an exact parallel in those 
of Demeter, the object of the search differing slightly in the two 
cases, while the mysterious birth of Horus, the successor of 
Osiris, corresponds point for point with that of Dionysos in his 
second form of lacchos. That both stories may have had their 
source in the folk-lore explaining the phenomena of the annual 
decay and rebirth of vegetation, Dr Frazer has shown with 
great attention to detail in The Golden Bough and elsewhere 1 to 
be possible ; but this was too philosophical an idea for the 
sixth century B.C., when the Mysteries of Eleusis were founded 
or reduced to order 2 . Herodotus, a century later, no doubt 
expressed the views of the learned of his day when he asserted 
that the worship of Dionysos was brought into Greece from 
Egypt 3 , and among modern scholars M. Foueart, who has done 
more than anyone to collate the few relics that remain to us 
of the Eleusinian worship, fully supports him in this. It 

taught in them (see Plutarch, Consolatory Letter, x.). There were there- 
fore three degrees of initiation at Eleusis : (1) The Little Mysteries show- 
ing the history of Dionysos, (2) The Great Mysteries mth the Bape of 
Persephone and the Wanderings of Demeter, and (3) The Epopsy 
(open to initiates of the second year only), showing the marriage of Zeus 
and Demeter and the birth of the new Dionysos. 

1 TVazer, The Golden Bough (third edition), Part iv, c. 5 ; Part v, vol. i, 
pp. 12, 263. 

2 The end of the Athenian monarchy and flight of the Pisistratids took 
place about 500 B.C. (see Chapter IV, infra). The Eleusinia were pro- 
bably reformed not long before. 

3 Herodotus, Bk IL c. 49; Diod. Sic. Bk I. c. 96, 4 &qq. It may, on 
the other hand, have been introduced from Asia Minor or the Mediterranean 
Islands, where it was certainly prevalent at a very early date. See articles 
in P.S.B.A. for 1911 and 1914 above quoted. 



44 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

is therefore plain that the resemblances between the Diony- 
siae and the Egyptian worship were many and salient. Hence 
Ptolemy found his way clear when he invited Timotheos the 
Eumolpid, a member of one of the sacred families in which the 
Eleusinian priesthood was, as has been said, hereditary, and 
associated with him the Egyptian priest Manetho in the task 
of founding a religion which should be common to Egyptians 
and Greeks alike 1 . 

In framing this new religion, the first care of the king and 
his advisers was evidently to avoid shocking the religious and 
artistic feelings of the Greeks. Ptolemy Soter's position seems 
to have been much like that of a modern Governor-General 
of India ; for, while he was not only tolerant but careful of the 
religious susceptibilities of the native Egyptians, his own Court 
remained in everything predominantly or exclusively Greek, 
In Alexandria, the site of which under the native Pharaohs 
had been the small fishing village of Ehacotis, he had practi- 
cally virgin soil, in which it is doubtful whether any Egyptian 
temple existed, and it was consequently, as Alexander intended 
it should be, in all respects a Greek city. Greek was the language 
there spoken, and it was to the care taken by Alexandrian 
scholars to preserve the language and literature of Hellas in 
its native purity, that we are indebted for most of what we know 
of the classic tongue at its best. Its large garrison consisted 
almost entirely of Greek soldiers drilled and armed in the Mace- 
donian fashion, and to the great University or Museum, which 
Ptolemy's munificence founded for the sustentation of scholars, 
there flocked learned men from every part of the Hellenic 
world 2 . Here, indeed, was the first instance of the endowment 

1 Plutarch, de Is. et Os. c. xxvni; Tacitus, Hist. IV. cap. 83, 84. 
Plutarch calls Timotheos the " exegete," i.e. the interpreter or dragoman ; 
so that his being a Eumolpid would seem to rest on the testimony of 
Tacitus only ; but there were " exegetes " attached to the Eumolpids at 
Eleusis, see Foucart, Grds. Myst. pp. 79 sqq. Bouche"-Leclercq, Hist, des 
Lagides, I. p. 118, thinks the names Timotheos and Manetho only cover 
the fact that the new religion was compounded from the Eleusinian and the 
Osirian cults. 

2 Bouch6-Leclereq (Hist, des Lagides, i. p. 129, n. 2) thinks the tradition 
that the Museum was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus erroneous. The 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 45 

of research ; and the experiment had important results for most 
of the modern sciences, not excluding that transmutation of 
metals which made such wild work among some of the best 
brains of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, but which Sir 
William Ramsay has lately shown to be more capable of ac- 
complishment than could have been expected from an alchemist's 
dream. At the Museum, Eratosthenes, " the Inspector of the 
Earth, " first set on foot the serious study of geography, 
Hipparchus laid the sure foundations of the modern science 
of astronomy, and Hero invented the first steam engine. The 
investigation of those secondary laws by which their insight 
perceived nature to be governed was indeed the constant 
occupation of King Ptolemy's " stuffed capons/' as Timon of 
Phlya contemptuously called them 1 . But these philosophers 
would have been the first to receive with scorn the proposition 
that anyone should be asked to worship the " brutish gods " 
of Egypt under those animal forms in which they had long been 
known to the more simple minded Egyptians. Osiris, the 
" bull of Amenti," as he is called in the early texts, was 
worshipped under the actual form of the bull Apis at Memphis 
and as a ram or goat at Mendes. Isis was often portrayed with 
the cow's head which commemorated one of the incidents of 
her myth as set forth by Plutarch. Horns, who was in fact 
an older god than either of them, was, as the totem of the royal 
tribe of the first invaders, worshipped at Edfu and elsewhere 
as a hawk, and although the Egyptian priests kept up as long 
as possible the distinction between this " Horas the elder " 
and Horus the son of Isis, it is certain that their Greek wor- 
shippers saw no difference between the two. While Timotheos 
was doubtless willing to recognize the Eleusinian deities, of 
whose worship his family were the traditional guardians, in the 
Egyptian triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, he must have been 
sure that he could not ask his art-loving countrymen to do 
them homage in the guise of beasts or birds. 

date of Demetrius of Phalentm's leaving Athens to take charge of it 
marks it as the foundation of Ptolemy Soter. Cf. Mahaffy, Umpire of 
Ptolemies, pp. 91, 92. 

1 See Mahaffy, op. cit. p. 98. 



46 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

The difficulty was got over in a way that was characteristic 
enough. The theocrasia or fusion of one god with another 
which we have seen playing such a prominent part in the 
religion of both Egyptians and Greeks, was of the very essence 
of the religion of Eleusis. At no time from the earliest mention 
of the Eleusinian worship onwards, is it possible to draw any 
sharp dividing line between Demeter and her daughter Perse- 
phone, or as Mr Louis Dyer rather flamboyantly puts it, Demeter 
and Persephone were at Eleusis " regarded as one, being so 
filled with mutual love that all barriers between them melted 
away 1 ." " Excepting," he says again, " in her days of thought- 
less youth, Demeter's Persephone is Demeter's self twice told," 
and the same dogma seems to have been prematurely revealed 
by Xenophanes of Colophon, who was exiled for his declaration 
that all the gods of his fellow-countrymen were but varying 
forms of the one deity. This identity of the goddesses of Eleusis 
must have been constantly present to the mind of the Greeks, 
who hardly ever spoke of Demeter and Persephone save as 
" the Goddesses Twain " or as the Mother-and-Daughter. But 
this was only the first step in what was called without circum- 
locution the " mystic theocrasia 2 " which went so far as to in- 
clude in the persons of the Eleusinian deities nearly all the gods 
of the Hellenic pantheon. In the original Cretan legend, the 
infant Dionysos is the son of Zeus, whom he is destined to succeed 
upon his throne, as Zeus had succeeded in the Homeric myths 
his fathei Kronos, and this last, his father Ouranos. But the 
Zeus of Eleusis was by no means the Zeus of Olympos whom 
Homer hails as " father of gods and men," but who had to yield 
the empire of the seas to his brother Poseidon and that of the 
netherworld to his brother Hades. Originally known at Eleusis 

1 Dyer, Gods in Greece, pp. 178, 179, and pp. 73, 74. An inscription 
making the identification has been found at Smyrna. See 0. Rayet 
in the Rev. Arckeologique for 1877, pp, 175-178, where its date is 
put at the middle of the third century B.C., and the vases of Gerhard 
there quoted. Of. Maury, Eel. de la Grece, H. p. 362 ; P. Lenormant in 
Daremberg and Saglio's Diet, des Antiqnites, s.v. Eleusinia, p. 549, and 
authorities there quoted. 

2 Damascius, Vit. Isidor, 106. For definition of term, see ibid. 
3, 5. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 47 

as cf the God " only, as Demeter with, or without her daughter 
was called " the Goddess," the Eleusinian god was also invoked 
as Zeus Chthonios or the infernal Zeus, called by euphemism 
Zeus Eubuleus (Zeus of Good Counsel), Pluto (Bringer of Eiches) 
and other similar names l . But by whatever name he was called, 
he was always the king of the dead, and was thus again brought 
near to Dionysos, whom Heraclitus of Ephesus, two centuries 
before Alexander, had declared to be the same god as Hades, 
lord of the netherworld 2 . In this double capacity, Dionysos 
was therefore the brother, father, and spouse of his consort 
Demeter, of whom he was also the child. He might therefore 
be considered one of the first instances known in the history 
of religions as a god who was, according to the way in which 
he was regarded, either father or son 3 . Nor did the theocrasia 
stop here. The Asiatic forms of Dionysos, whether we call 
them Atys, Adonis or by any other name, were often repre- 
sented as of both sexes, a doctrine which is also denoted by 
Dionysos' Orphic epithet of Mise, and led to his being portrayed 
in effeminate shape 4 . Hence, Dionysos and Demeter or Perse- 
phone might be regarded as the God under both the male and 
female aspect. Moreover, Zeus was said to have ordered the 
corpse of Dionysos to be buried at Delphi, where secret cere- 
monies were celebrated in connection with it by five priests 
called Hosioi ; and this seems to have led to the idea common 



1 Eoucart, Myst. $l. p. 34. He suggests that the real names were 
" ineffable," i.e. only revealed to initiates. Xenocrates, whose date may 
be put at 396-314 B.C., seems to have known of a supernal and infernal 
Zeus (dem. Alex. Strom. Bk v. c. II), and a fragment attributed to 
Euripides identifies Zeus with Hades (id. loc. tit.). 

2 Plutarch, de Is. et Os. c. xxvrn. ; dem. Alex. Protrept. c. n, 

3 This was noticed by Clement of Alexandria, who (Strom. Bk v. c, 14) 
says that Homer and Orpheus both " show forth " the Christian doctrine 
in this respect. The verse he quotes from Orpheus makes Dionysos both 
the father and son of Zeus. Cf. Abel's Orphica, Erag. 237. 

4 As in the Orphic verse : " Zeus is a male, Zeus is an immortal virgin," 
Abel, Orphica, Fr. 46. Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, p. 140, points out that 
Xenocrates and the Stoics both made the same assertion* Cf . authorities 
quoted by him and Euripides, Bacchae, 11. 330-350. A statue from 
Smyrna showing a markedly effeminate type of Dionysoa is to be seen at 
the Ashmolean Museum. 



48 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

to the classic poets Pindar, Aeschylus, and Euripides, that 
Dionysos and Apollo were different forms of the same god, a 
theory which is expressly confirmed by Plutarch 1 . But Apollo 
" the Far-Darter " was always to the Greeks a sun-god, and 
Horus from the first had the same character among the Egyp- 
tians, the emblem of the sun-diskbeing often added to the Horus- 
hawk of their protocol by the Pharaohs of the New Empire. 
Thus the identification of the gods of the Osiris cycle with their 
Greek analogues was complete. It was agreed that Osiris was 
to be represented as the Greek Hades, Isis as Demeter, and the 
child Horus as Apollo. Herodotus and probably other Greek 
writers had long before made the same identifications 2 . 

This settled, the question of the material forms under which 
the triad was to be worshipped by Ptolemy's new subjects 
became easy. A convenient dream, so runs the story told in 
Roman times, revealed to the king the existence of a statue of 
Hades or Pluto at Sinope in Pontus that was exactly fitted to 
his purpose 3 . It is said to have been of colossal size, the work 
of Bryaxis, the fellow-worker of Scopas, and to have been 
composed of a mixture of the most precious metals with frag- 
ments of gems, the whole being coloured with a dark varnish. 
This statue was given up by or according to another version 
was stolen from the city of Sinope, and was installed with great 
pomp in the magnificent temple or Serapeum built for it at 
Alexandria, which for centuries formed one of the wonders of 

1 Macrobius, Saturnalia, lib. i. c. 18, for authorities ; also Pindar, 
Threnoi* x. 8, p. 116 (Bergk) ; Plutarch, On the E at Delphi, c. ix. 

2 Lafaye, Culte des Divinites $ Alexandrie, Paris, 1884, pp. 6-12, and 
authorities there quoted. Cf . Foucart, Culte de Dion. pp. 66, 67. 

3 So Plutarch and Tacitus where before quoted. The conflicting tra- 
ditions on the subject have been reconciled by Krall, Tacitus und der 
Orient, Th. i. Bd iv. 83, 84. Cf. Bouch^-Leclercq, Hist, de la Divination, 
t. m. p. 378, n. 1 ; id. Hist, de Lagides, t. 1. p. 118 ; Lafaye, Culte, etc. 
pp. 16, 17. There is little doubt that the statue of Bryaxis represented 
Asklepios as Bouch6-Leclercq (Rev. Hist. Mel. 1902, pp. 26, 27) surmises. 
Isidore Levy sums up the whole question in the Revue last quoted, 1911, 
pp. 146, 147, and 1913, pp. 308 sqq. So Ad. Beinach, Rev. cit. pt 2, p. 69. 
The statue is described by B/ufinus Aquilensis, Hist. Ecd. Bk n, c. 23. 
Cf. Dionysius, Periegetes, 11. 254, 256 (Didot, Qeogr* Or. mi. t. n. p. 116); 
Amelung, Rev. Archeol. 1903, pt 2, pp. 187-204. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 49 

the Hellenistic world. It doubtless formed the model for all 
the later representations of the new god called henceforth 
Serapis (in Egyptian, Asar-hapi or Osiris in his manifestation as 
Apis), which resemble each other in all important particulars. 
They show a bearded man of mature age, whose features have 
much of the majesty and dignity of the Phidian Zeus. On his 
head he weajs the modius, a crown of basket-work on which 
are sometimes represented olive trees and which is said to be 
a reproduction of the calaihos or consecrated basket carried 
in the sacred procession to Eleusis, and doubtless possessed 
for the initiated some mystical or symbolical meaning 1 . He 
is generally represented with an eagle at his feet, and by the side 
of him appears a triple monster which may perhaps represent 
the classical Cerberus with a serpent twisted round its body 
and equipped with the heads of a lion, a dog, and a wolf. It 
seems, therefore, that in choosing this statue the founders of 
the Alexandrian religion had quite turned their backs on the 
lighter and more joyous aspects of the mystic Dionysos, and 
intended to regard him as the god of the dead merely 2 . The 
same was not the case with his consort Isis, who is generally 
represented as a young matron of stately appearance having 
sometimes the crescent moon on her head, and sometimes a 
crown of lotus flowers interspersed with ears of corn. She is 
dressed in a fringed tunic reaching to her feet, having over her 
shoulders a mantle tied by its ends between the breasts in a 
peculiar knot. In one hand she bears the sistrum or tattle used 
in her worship, and in the other a horn of abundance or other 
emblem, while the head is frequently covered by a long veiL 
Both the attitude and the dress are always of the strictest 
modesty, and the features wear an expression of gentle 

1 Probably it had some reference to his character as god of vegetation, 
as shown by his epithet of " Fragifer." The explanation of Macrobius, 
Saturnalia, I. c. 20, which refers it to the sun, is absurd. Perhaps it may 
be connected with his epithet of iro\v8eyp(ov "receiver of many." So 
ML Aristides speaks of Mm as the receiver of souls. See p. 60 infra* 

a See last note. The eagle was adopted as a kind of family crest by 

the Ptolemies and appears on all their coins. See examples in Mahany, 

Emp. of ihe Ptolemies, passim. What is probably a reproduction of 

Bryaxis' statue is now at Naples and is described by Lafaye, op. tit. p. 274. 

i*. 4 



50 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

"benevolence, in which it is possible to see a trace of melancholy. 
The Alexandrian Horus is seldom represented otherwise than 
in child form, the type being taken from the Egyptian Horns 
known as Har-pa-khrat (Horus the Child) of which the Alex- 
andrians made Harpocrates. In this form he was represented 
with his finger in his mouth in accordance with the usual 
Egyptian ideogram for childhood, and this gave rise to the 
story among the Greeks that he was the god of silence. Some- 
times he is shown with wings like the classical Eros, frequently 
seated on the lotus or with the lotus flower on his head, and very 
often with the hawk which formed his proper emblem 1 . He 
was seldom represented in a group containing Serapis, although 
bas-reliefs and statues showing Serapis and Isis together are 
common ; but groups representing Isis suckling Horus have 
been found in some numbers. Generally it may be said that the 
modius on the head is the distinguishing mark of the figure of 
Serapis, the peculiar breast-knot that of Isis, while Horus can 
seldom be recognized with certainty save by the gesture of the 
forefinger in the mouth or, as the Greek artists preferred to re- 
present it, on the lips. From this time forward, the Alexandrian 
Greeks could worship the chief deities of their native fellow- 
citizens under forms which they felt to be worthy of the Divine. 
Thus, the worship of the great Egyptian triad under their 
Greek forms was inaugurated, as was our own English Eefor- 
mation in the sixteenth century, as a measure of statecraft, by 
a king who hardly cared to conceal that in doing so he had only 
his own interest to serve. Yet it may be said at once, that so 
far as its political purpose was concerned, the Alexandrian 
religion was from the outset foredoomed to failure. The 
Egyptians of Philhellenic times were of all the nations of the 
earth at once the most superstitious and the most fanatically 
attached to their traditional modes of worship. Although 
until the rise of the theocracy, the importation of foreign gods 
was not unknown, under the Ethiopians, the Persians, and 
Alexander, the Egyptians had not scrupled to sacrifice their 
nationality to their religion, and to accept a foreign governor 

1 See Lafaye, pp. 259, 260. Except In amulets, representations of 
Barpocrates are not very common. Of. P.S.RA, 1914, p. 92, 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 51 

so long as the worship of their native gods under types that 
had been observed by them for more than four millenia remained 
untouched. How then could they be expected to recognize 
their native deities in forms beautified and dignified by Greek 
art indeed, but so foreign to all their traditional ideas that 
nothing distinctly Egyptian about them remained ? 

To this question there could be but one answer, and it is 
not extraordinary that the native Egyptians proved as recal- 
citrant to their new king's endeavour to unite them in a common 
worship with their Greek masters as the Jews did under the 
somewhat similar attempt of Antiochus Epiphanes. The 
Egyptian priests allowed Ptolemy to set up at Memphis, which 
had become since the ruin of Thebes the religious capital of the 
country, a Serapeum, doubtless modelled on that of Alexandria, 
by the side of the native temple established for the delectation 
of the living Apis and for the solemn burial of his predecessors : 
but they took care that it should be separated from the Egyp- 
tian Serapeum by a long avenue of sphinxes, and that no Greek 
prayers should ever be allowed to defile the purity of the native 
Egyptian sanctuary 1 . Moreover, Egypt, resembling in this 
perhaps all countries with strongly marked geographical 
characteristics, has exhibited through all ages a wonderful 
power of conquering her conquerors, or, in other words, of forcing 
her foreign rulers to accept the ideas that they found there, 
instead of adopting at their instance innovations on customs 
consecrated by centuries of usage. Hence the Ptolemies, as 
time went on, found it necessary to pay ever more and more 
attention to the native Egyptian religion, and Ptolemy V 
Epiphanes was crowned at Memphis, as is recorded on the 
Eosetta Stone, with all the religious ceremonies that made him 
in the eyes of the Egyptians the living Horus, son of the sun- 
god, the beloved of Ptah and the rest, as fully as any of the 
ancient Pharaohs 2 . All the Ptolemies, too, seem to have spent 

1 Maury in Hevm des Deux Mcmdes, Sept. 1855, p. 1073 ; Mariette, 
Le Serapeum de Memphis, ed. Maspero, Paris, 1882, 1, pp* 114, 115, 124. 

2 Bouch6-Leelereq, Hist, des Lagides, I. pp. 232, 233. Cf. Mahaffy, 
Umpire of Ptol&mies, pp. 204 sqq. The Egyptianizing tendencies of the 
later Ptolemies shown by the decrees of the priests on the Rosetta and 

42 



52 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

very considerable sums on the restoration and keeping-up of 
tlie temples in Egypt dedicated to such thoroughly native gods 
as Amon of Thebes and Horus of Edfu, besides those at Philae 
and elsewhere raised not to the Alexandrian but to the Egyptian 
Osiris and his cycle. What truth there is in the statement 
of Macrobius that Ptolemy Soter compelled by " tyranny " 
the Egyptians to take Serapis into their temples, it is impossible 
to say ; but as his image in Greek form has never been found 
in any of them, it is plain that the priests must have found some 
way of evading the royal order, if it were really given 1 . 

Ptolemy, however, was building better than he knew, and 
the hybrid cult which the provident old soldier had fashioned 
as an instrument of government turned out to be the first, and 
not the least successful, of the world-religions for which Alex- 
ander's conquests left clear the way. During the wars of the 
Diadochi, all the powers who at any time found themselves 
Ptolemy's pawns in the mighty war game then played on a 
board stretching from India to Thrace, thought to curry favour 
with their rich ally by giving countenance to his new religion. 
An association of Sarapiasts or worshippers of Serapis held 
their meetings in the Piraeus not long after the institution of 
the Alexandrian cult 2 : and before the death of Ptolemy Soter, 
a Serapeum was built in Athens over against the Acropolis 
itself 3 . Cyprus, Rhodes, Antioch, Smyrna, and Halicarnassus 
were not long in following suit, and before the end of the century 
several of the islands of the JSgean together with Boeotia, which 
was said by some to be the native country of Dionysos, had 
adopted the new worship. In the second century B.C., the 
temples of the Alexandrian gods were to be found in Delos> 
Tenedos, Thessaly, Macedonia and the Thracian Bosphorus 
in Europe, and in Ephesus, Cyzicus and Termessus among 



Canopus Stones were first pointed out by RevUlout in the Hevue 
logiqm, 1877, pp. 331 sqq. A new decree of the same kind under Epiphanes 
has been published by M. Daressy, Recueil de Travaux etc., 1911, pp. 1 sqq. 

1 Macrobims, Satwn* Bk I. c. 7. 

2 Foucart, Les Associations Religiewes, p. 207, Inscr. 24 ; CJ.& No. 120* 
The tabfefc is now in the British Museum. 

3 Lai&ye, (Mte, etc. p. 35 ; Pausanias* Bk i. c. 18, 4* 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 53 

other places in Asia Minor 1 . But their greatest triumph was 
awaiting them further west. Invited by Hiero II into Sicily, 
they were not long in working their way up the coast, and a 
hundred years before our era a temple to Serapis was in exist- 
ence at Puteoli 2 . It was evidently no new foundation and had 
probably been built some fifty years earlier, at which date 
perhaps the first Isium at Pompeii was also in existence 3 . 
Somewhere about 80 B.C., the Alexandrian worship was intro- 
duced into Rome itself, and thereafter no action of the 
authorities was able to expel it 4 . Its temples were more than 
once thrown down by order of the consuls; but they were always 
rebuilt, and in 43 B.C., the aedile Marcus Volusius, who had been 
proscribed by the triumvirs, found the linen robe and the dog's 
head mask of a priest of Isis the most efficient disguise in which 
to escape Sulla's bravos 5 . Under the Empire, the temple of 
Isis in the Campus Martius became one of the fashionable 
resorts of the Eoman youth ; and, although Tiberius seized 
the occasion of a real or pretended scandal in connection with 
it to exile a large number of the faithful to Sardinia, his suc- 
cessors were themselves initiated into the faith ; while under,- 
Nero the worship jof the ,4-lexajidrian. gods was, formally recog-. 
nxzetTby the state 6 . From that time, it followed the Roman 
arms into every quarter of the ancient world, and its monuments 
have been found in Morocco, Spain, France, Great Britain, 
Germany, and the Danube provinces. Ridicule was as power- 
less to stop its march as persecution, and the satire of Juveaal 
and Martial had no more effect on it than the banter of tlifc 
New Comedy, which was quick to observe that even in 

1 Lafaye, op, tit. pp. 35-38 ; id. Dietionnaire des Antiqmtes of Darem- 
berg and Saglio, s.v. Isis ; Drexler in Roscher's Lexikon d&r Mytbologie, 
s,v. Isis, esp. p. 379. 

2 Lafaye, op. tit. p. 40 ; O.LL. I. 577. 

3 Lafaye, see last note. 

4 Lafaye, op. tit. pp. 44 sqq. 

* Lafaye, op. tit. pp, 44-47. For the story of Marcus Volusius see 
Appian, de JBeUo CimU, Bk iv. c. 6, 47. 

fi XOwllus, Elegiacs, I. iii 23 ; ibid. r. vii 27 ; Ovid, Am. n. xiiL 7 ; 
id. op. tit. it. xiv. The story of the expulsion is told by Josephus, Anti- 
, xvm c. 3. Of. Lafaye, op. tit. chap, rn passim. 



54 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

Menander's day the gilded youth of Athens swore " by Isis " or 
" by Horns 1 . 55 Under the Antonines, it probably reached its 
apogee, when the Emperor Commodus appeared in the pro- 
cessions of the cult among the bearers of the sacred images, 
and few Eomans seem to have been aware that the Alexandrian 
gods were not Koman from the beginning. Like Ptolemy's 
master, Ptolemy's gods might have boasted that they com- 
manded the allegiance of the whole civilized world 2 . 

The causes of this astonishing success must be looked for 
within the religion itself. No name has come down to us of 
any prophet or priest of the Alexandrian religion possessing 
a commanding personality like St Paul, Mohammed, Luther, 
or Calvin ; and we must therefore conclude that it was its own 
intrinsic merits which thus commended it to so many widely- 
differing peoples 3 . Foremost among these was, it would seem, 
its extraordinary timeliness. Alexander's conquests had broken 
down the barriers that speech and race had set up between 
neighbouring peoples, and had at the same time united many 
hundreds of jealous and discordant states under a single head. 
In the many royal courts which had been set up as a result 
of the partition of Alexander's Empire, philosophers of every 
school were chanting the political advantages of an enlightened 
monarchy over the greedy scramble for place and power in- 
separable from democracy, and the doctrine was bound sooner 
or later to be applied to religion 4 . We have seen how far both 
Egyptians and Greeks had before then carried the practice of 
theocrasia, but the founders of the Alexandrian religion were 
not slow in pushing it to its only legitimate conclusion. Serapis, 
unlike the Greek Zeus ? from the first declined to brook any 
partition of his empire over nature. " Wouldst thou know 

1 Gomicor. Graecor. Fragmenta of Didot, pp. 517 and 629, and Lafaye, 
op. cit. p. 31. 

2 Lafaye, op. e loc. tit. and especially p. 62. 

3 So Parisotid, Eicerche stil culto de Iside e Serapide, Roma, 1888, 
p. 52 sqq.; and Bill, Nero to Marcus, pp. 564, 565: "The history of 
the Isiao cult at Rome from Sulla to Nero is really the history of a great 
popular religious movement ." 

4 See Chapter I, supra, pp. 12, 14. Cf. Droysen, op. cit. n. p. 471. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 55 

what god I am," said Ms oracle at the Alexandrian Serapeum 
to Nicocreon, the Cypriote king. cc I myself will tell thee. 
The heavenly cosmos is my head; the sea my belly. My 
feet are the earth ; my ears are in the aether. My far-beaming 
eye is the radiant light of the sun 1 ." In other words, Serapis 
is himself the universe, which is probably the meaning to be 
attached to the name given to Osiris in the Book of the Dead 
which Egyptologists translate " Lord of Totality." But 
Aeschylus had already said the same thing about Zeus 2 , and 
as the geds of the Greeks were never anything else than the 
powers of nature, Serapis thus comprised in his single person 
the whole Greek pantheon. Hence " Serapis alone is Zeus " 
came to be a sort of watchword in the Alexandrian religion to 
be endlessly repeated on statues, gems, and all the other material 
relics of the cult 3 . A little later and we find Serapis drawing 
to himself the worship of all the Mediterranean gods who had 
a common origin with Osiris and Dionysos. Adonis, as appears 
from the beautiful idyll of Theocritus, in the reign of Ptolemy 
Soter's successor was worshipped as another form of Osiris in 
the royal palace itself 4 . Atys, Cybele's lov^r, was ako identified 
with him 5 ; and, as the -Stoic philosophy, which taught that all 
the gods- were "but different forms of the one Divine energy, 

1 Maorobins, Saturn. Bk i. c. 20. Bouche-Leclercq (E.H.K 1902, 
t. XLVI. p. 19, n. 1) says these lines are a f orgery of late date, Krall, 
Tadtus, etc, Th. I, Bk iv., is of the contrary opinion. Mcocreon of 
Cyprus was certainly a contemporary of Ptolemy Soter, and helped Mm 
against Perdiccas. 

2 dem. Ales. 8trom. Bk v. c. 14. So Julius Aristides, in Serapidem, 
p* 91 (Dindorf), says that Serapis " is present in all things and fills the 
universe." 

3 Lafaye, Culie, etc., pp. 306, 307, 324, 325, for examples. Gf. Inscrip- 
tion from Kios in Bithynia given by Robiou in Melanges Grows, Paris, 
1884, pp. 601, 602 ; Parisotti, op. tit. p. 55. 

4 Theocritus, Idyll, xv. ; Damascius, Vit, Mdor, 106 ; Socrates, Hist. 
Mcd. Bk m. c. 23. In Le Quite tFAdonw-Thamm'uz, Paris, 1901 (pp. 51- 
54, 69, 109), M, Ch. Vellay has shown the fusion in early Christian, times 
of the legends of Adonis, Atys and Osiris. 

B Erazer, Golden Bowgh, Part IV, p. 357 and n. 1 ; cf. Stephen of By- 
zantium, s.v. 'AfjiaBo^s; Dollinger, Jud. und EM. I. p. 145; Decharme 
in Daremberg and Saglio, $.v, Cybele for authorities. 



56 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

came into fashion, Serapis was equated with, the numerous 
sun-gods whose worship poured in from the Semitic east. 
" The eterna] sun " came to be one of his most-used epithets, 
and he is often invoked as the equivalent of the Greek Helios 
and of the Persian sun-god Mithras 1 . Nor did his consort 
long remain behind him. " I, the parent of the works of 
nature" is the style in which Isis announces herself to her 
votary Lucius in Apuleius 5 romance, 

" queen of all the elements, earliest offspring of the ages, highest of 
godheads, sovereign of the Manes, first of the heavenly ones, one- 
formed type of gods and goddesses. The luminous heights of heaven, 
the health-giving breezes of the sea, the sad silences of the lower 
world, I govern by my nod. I am she whose godhead, single in 
essence, but of many forms, with varied rites and under many 
names, the whole earth reveres. Hence the Phrygians, first born 
of men, call me Pessinuntica, Mother of the Gods ; here the first 
inhabitants of Attica, Cecropian Minerva, there the wave-rocked 
Cypriotes, Paphian Venus ; the arrow-bearing Cretans, Diana 
Dictynna; the three-tongued Sicilians, Stygian Proserpine; the 
Eleusinians, the ancient goddess Ceres; others Juno, others Bel- 
lona, these Hecate, those Ehamnusia ; and they who are lighted by 
the first rays of the sun-god on his rising, the Ethiopians, the Afri- 
cans, and the Egyptians skilled in the ancient teaching, worshipping 
me with ceremonies peculiarly my own, call me by my true name, 
Queen Isis 2 ." 

As we shall see later (p. 64, infra) her spouse Osiris claimed 
also to be the highest of godheads ; and the final unity of the 
Divine essence to which the j^vcrn/crj Oeo/cpao-ia was logically 
bound to lead could hardly be stated in clearer language 3 . 

1 Julian, ad Meg. SoL Orat. iv. cc. 135, 136 ; Eusebius, Praep. Ev. 
Bk m. c. 15 ; Kenyon, Greek Papyri in British Museum, 1893, p. 65 ; 
Wessely, GriecM&ehe Zaub&rpapyri von Paris, etc., Wien, 1888, pp. 61 sqq, ; 
Leemans, Papyri Oraeci Mus. Ant. Pw6. iMgdMni-Bafavi, Leyden, 1885, 
JL pp. 26, 27; Parthey, Zwei griech. Zauberpapyri, Berlin, 1866, p. 127. 

2 Apuleius, Metamorphoses, Bk xi. c. 5. 

9 So Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, Oxford, 1895, 1. p. 92, 
says that "the essential idea" of the mysteries was that all the gods 
there worshipped were but different forms of the one. In the "Greek 
Worship of Serapis and Isis," I have endeavoured to show how this idea 
was elaborated in the cult of the Alexandrian divinities. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 57 

Thus, we see that what has been called a monotheistic 
pantheism instead of an incoherent mass of local worships was 
one of the advantages of the Alexandrian cult. But in the 
religion of the crowd, feeling plays a more important part than 
reason, and the idea which it first gave mankind of what would 
be now called the " fatherhood of God " was probably by far 
its most alluring feature. It has frequently been said that the 
Greeks although they feared, did not love their gods, and so 
far as the Homeric deities are concerned, it is difficult to see why 
they should. Apollo openly expresses his contempt for " pitiful 
mortals, who like unto leaves now live in glowing life, con- 
suming the fruit of the earth, and now again pine unto death 1 ,' 5 
Hera does not hide her scorn for " the creatures of a day," and 
the help that Athena gives the Greeks in their war against Troy 
is expressly said to be due to no kindlier feeling than rage 
at the slight which Paris had put upon her beauty 2 * As for 
the Egyptian religion, if it ever exhibited the lofty conceptions 
and sublime ideas with which the earlier Egyptologists were 
inclined to credit it, it had long before Ptolemy's time lost all 
trace of them, and had degenerated into " a systematized 
sorcery" in whioh.tha gods were compelled to grant merely 
material benefits directly they were demanded with the proper 
ritual V But when we turn from the Greek and Egyptian 
creeds to the new faith which was compounded from the two, 
we are at once struck by the complete change which seems to 
have come over the worshippers' conception of the Divine. 
Isis, from the wily magician of Pharaonic Egypt, has now become 
" the haven of peace and the altar of pity 4 .'* 

" thou holy and eternal protectress of the race of men " 
are the terms with which Lucius addresses her, 

" thou who ever givest good gifts to comfort-needing mortals, thou 
dost bestow upon the lot of the wretched the sweet affection of a 

1 Homer, Iliad, xxi. 462 (translation by Lang, Leaf and Myers). 

2 Of. Penelope's speech on the jealousy of the gods, Odyssey, XXIEL 208. 

3 Sayce, Meligion* of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia (Clifford Lectures), 
Edin. 1902, p. 201; Naville, The OU Egyptian Faith, pp. 308, 309; 
Maspero, jfe. SgyptoL i. p. 163 and n. p. 277. 

4 Apuleius, Met. Bk XL c. 15. 



58 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

mother. There is no day nor night nor smallest moment which is 
not occupied with thy good deeds. Thou dost protect mankind by 
sea and land, and scattering the storms of life dost stretch forth to 
them thy saving hand, with which thou dost even spin anew the 
hopelessly twisted web of the Fates, and dost temper the blasts of 
fortune and restrain the hostile courses of the stars 1 ." 



So jElius Aristides in his encomium of Serapis written after 
having been saved from shipwreck, as he considered, by the 
direct intervention of the god, tells us that Serapis is the god 
who " purifies the soul with wisdom, and preserves the body 
by giving it health 2 ," that he alone 

" is adored by kings as by private persons, by the wise as by the 
foolish, by the great as by the small, and by those on whom he has 
bestowed happiness as well as those who possess him alone as a 
refuge from their trouble 3 ," 

that he is " the protector and saviour of all men 4 ," " the most 
loving of the gods towards men 5 /' "greatly turned towards 
mercy 6 ," and " the light common to all men 7 ." We hardly 
want his elaborate demonstration that Serapis alone of all the 
gods is ready to assist him who invokes him when in need, to 
convince us that the reign of the warlike gods and goddesses 
of Homer always, as Renan says, brandishing a spear from 
the top of an acropolis is over, and that instead of them man 
has at last found 

...... " Gods, the friends of man 

Merciful gods, compassionate " 

who would certainly " answer him again," as a father would 
his children. 

The providence and beneficence of the Alexandrian gods 
towards man, moreover, extended beyond the grave. In Homer, 
we find a conception of the next world which for dreariness and 

1 Ibid. c. 25. 2 Aristides, in Serapid. p. 89. 

3 Ibid. loc. tit * Ibid, p. 90. 

* Ibid. p. 97. Ibid. loc. tit. 

* Ibid. p. 100. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 59 

hopelessness is only paralleled by the Jewish ideas concerning 
SheoL " Nay, speak not comfortably to me of death, great 
Odysseus," says the shade of Achilles to the hero who has 
called him up from Hades. " Rather would I live upon the soil 
as the hireling of another ? even with a landless man who had 
no great livelihood, than bear sway among all the dead who 
are no more 1 ." But the Eleusinian Mysteries were hailed as 
giving deliverance from these horrors, and as robbing death of 
much of its terrors for those who had been initiated. " Blessed 
is he," says Pindar in a passage in which commentators agree 
to see a direct allusion to the Mysteries, " who has seen the 
things that are under the earth. He has seen the end of life; he 
has seen also the God-sent beginning 2 ." " Thrice blessed," says 
Sophocles, " are they among mortals, who after having beheld 
these mysteries, go to the house of Hades : for it is theirs alone 
there to live, but to the others there will arrive all ills 3 ." The 
Homeric Hymn to Demeter, which may be about a century 
earlier than Pindar, is as emphatic as he as to the saving grace of 
initiation. " Happy," it says, " is the man on earth who has 
iseen these things. But he who has not been initiated in these 
holy rites, who has not shared in them, never has the same lot, 
when he has utterly faded away in the dark gloom 4 ." Those 
who believe with M. Foucart in the Egyptian origin of the 
Eleusinian rites will doubtless see in this a direct borrowing 
from the Egyptian views regarding the beatitude awaiting the 
justified or "triumphant" dead who in life had been wor- 
shippers of Osiris. How much or how little of the Osirian 
faith as to the state of these worshippers in the next world 
passed into the Alexandrian religion cannot now be said ; but 
it is certain that the protection of Isis and Serapis was held to 
be as powerful in the life beyond the tomb as in this. 

1 Odyssey, XL 491 sqq. (Butcher and Lang's translation). 

2 Pindar, TJvrmoi, Frag. X. p. 102, Cod. Bo. 

3 Sophocles, Tnptolmm (Plutarch, de Aw&imdis Poetis* 21 F), Frag. 
348 of Didol 

4 Homeric Hymn to Demefar, 1L 480 sqq. So an inscription on the 
statue of a hierophant quoted by M. Foucart, M yst. tfEl. p. 55, says that 
death to the initiated is not an evil but a good. 



60 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

"When the term of thy life is spent," 
says the apparition of the goddess to Apuleius' Lucius, 

" and thou at length descendest to the lower regions, there also, 
even in the subterranean hemisphere, thou, dwelling in Blysian 
fields, will often adore me who art propitious to thee, and whom 
thou shalt see shining among the shades of Acheron and reigning 
over the secret places of Styx 1 ." 

So, too, Aristides says of Serapis, that he is " the Saviour and 
leader of souls, leading souls to the light and receiving them 
again 2 , 5 ' that " he raises the dead, he shows forth the longed- 
for light of the sun to those who see, whose holy tombs contain 
endless numbers of sacred books 3 ," and that " we can never 
escape from his sway, but he will save us, and even after death 
we shall be the objects of his providence 4 ." We may imagine, 
if we please, although there is really no proof of any connection 
between the two, that in its assertion of the fatherhood of God 
as in earthly matters, the Alexandrian religion owed something 
to the Stoic philosophy ; but it is fairly certain that in the 
glimpses it afforded of the next world, its inspiration must 
have been drawn either from Eleusis or from Egypt. 

What we know, too, of the actual worship of the Alexandrian 
triad shows that it was designed to attract the devotion of the 
multitude with a skill that argues the existence behind it of 
many centuneifof priestcraf tf It* is sTnll a moot point whether 
Herodotus was well-founded when he asserted the existence of 
" mysteries " in the Egyptian religion 5 ; and it is quite clear 
that the scenes in the earthly life of Osiris and the gods of his 
cycle which, in the case of their Greek counterparts were care- 
fully concealed from all but initiates, were in Egypt openly 

1 Apuleius, Met. Bk XL o. 8. 

2 Aristides, in Sercvpid. p. 93, 

3 Ibid. p. 95, Ibid. p. 96. 

5 Maspero says (" Les Hypog6es Royaux de Thebes," J&. Sgyptd. n. 
p 178) that " if ever there were in Pharaonic Egypt mysteries and initiates, 
as there were in Greece and Greek Egypt," it was in the time of decay 
evidenced by the rare books preserved in the tombs of the kings of the 
xxth and later Dynasties. Later, ibid. p. 180, he says that they must 
have been confined to a very small class. Ci ibid, p, 278. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 61 

portrayed on tlie walls of the temples 1 . But Timotheos and 
Manetho must have been too well aware of the prestige attach- 
ing throughout the Hellenic world to the secret worships of such 
centres of religion as Eleusis and Samothrace to forgo its 
advantage for their new religion ; and the Alexandrian gods too 
had a system of initiation which seems to have been modelled 
upon that of the " Goddesses Twain." Thanks to Apuleius we 
can, up to a certain point, follow the Alexandrian course of 
initiation step by step. Those whom Isis singled out as fitted 
for her service 2 which we may without uncharitableness inter- 
pret as meaning those whom the priests thought likely to be 
of use to the religion were assigned a " mystagogue " who no 
doubt gave them such instructions as he thought fit in the 
meaning of the rites which he saw performed in the temple, 
and the incidents in the life of the gods to which they were 
attached. When after a course of such instruction, which was 
of varying length, the mystagogue was convinced of the sound- 
ness of the aspirant's vocation, the formal initiation began. 
In strict accordance with a ritual which Apuleius assures us 
was written down in Egyptian characters and carefully pre- 
served in the secret places of the sanctuary (opertis adyti), the 
aspirant underwent a solemn lustration with water or baptism 
at the hands of the priest, and was ordered to abstain from all 
food which had had life, from wine and from the company of 
the other sex for a space of ten days 3 . This period was doubt- 
less spent as far as possible within the temple precincts, much 
importance being attached to the prolonged contemplation of 
the statue of the goddess, which was, as we have seen, fashioned 
in a manner worthy of Greek art, and was further adorned with 

1 E& $ie mystic marriage of Zens or Dionysos with Bemeter, which 
according to Hippolytus, PMlos&phwnena, Bk v. c. 1, 8, p. 171, Gruiee, 
and Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. c. n,, formed the crowning scene of 
the Eleusinian Mysteries. At Dendera, the corresponding union of Osiris 
and Isis, from which, according to M. IToucart, the Eleusinian legend was 
derived, was depicted in the most realistic way on the temple walls* 
See Mariette, Dmddrah, Pads, 1875, t, w. pL 66 sqq. 9 or Budge, &E. 
pp. 132-137. 

a Apuleius, If e. Bk XL c. 21, qpms tamm iwto possint magna reHgiom& 
cwnmitti silenMa, mtmm deae sokat ettcere. 3 Ibid, cc, 22, 23. 



62 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

rich, robes and jewels after the manner of the Catholic images 
of the Virgin. At the expiration of the ten days' retreat, the 
candidate was clothed in a linen garment and was exhibited to 
the general body or congregation of the faithful who presented 
him with gifts. The secret ceremonies were then performed 
before him, the nature of which are only revealed to us in the 
guarded words of Apuleius' hero : 

" I approached the bounds of death, and, borne through all the 
elements, returned again to the threshold of Proserpine which I 
had already trod. I saw at midnight the sun shining with pure 
light, I came before the Gods of the Upper and Lower World, and 
I worshipped them from auigh 1 ." 

Collating these hints which Apuleius tells us are all that it 
is lawful for him to give with what we know of the origin of 
the Alexandrian religion and with the scraps of information that 
have come down to us regarding other ceremonies of a like nature, 
we may gather from this that the candidate underwent a mock 
death, being probably made to enact in his own person the 
passion of Osiris and his shutting-up in a coffin 2 , that he was 
shown the happy lot of the initiated and the correspondingly 
miserable fate of the uninitiated in the life after death, that he 
was subjected to certain " trials," or proofs of his courage and 
sincerity, by fire, water, earth, and air, and that he was finally 
shown in a brilliant light the glorious company of the gods 
represented either by their images, or by priests arrayed with 
their best-known attributes. Nothing seems to have been 
omitted that could impress the imagination of the neophyte, 
and when the night of initiation was at length over, he was 
again displayed before the congregation of worshippers clothed 
in what was known as the Olympian garment (stola Olympiaca) 
consisting of a dress of byssus or linen embroidered with flowers, 
over which was cast a rich mantle decorated with figures of 
fabulous animals, and bearing in his right hand a flaming torch, 

1 Op. cif. end of c. 23. 

2 Perhaps this is the meaning of the f ormula said by Clement of Alex- 
andria, Pratrept. c. n., to be repeated by the initiates at Eleusis : " I have 
fasted...! have drunk of the eyceon. ..I have entered into the chest 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 63 

while on his head was a crown of palm-leaves with leaves pro- 
jecting, as he says, " like rays of light." In this costume he 
was placed in a wooden pulpit before the statue of the goddess 
in the public portion of the temple, and was thus exhibited for the 
adoration of the crowd, when the ceremony of opening took 
place 1 . As the last stage of the secret rite seems to have been the 
successive imposition upon the initiate of twelve robes, doubtless 
typifying the twelve signs of the Zodiac, we hardly want the 
rayed crown, and the explicit words of Apuleius to inform us that 
in this costume he was intended to represent the material sun 
(exormtus imtar Solis et in wcem simulacri constitwtus)*. The 
sun-god, however, was in the later phases of the Egyptian 
religion not Osiris but either Ea or Horus 3 , and this last-named 
god was in the Alexandrian triad equated with the Greek Apollo. 
It therefore seems likely that the initiate represented here the 
child of Isis begotten, as has been said, by Osiris after his 
death and passion, and this corresponds with the statement 
put into the mouth of Isis and preserved by Proclus : " I am 
that which has been, is, and will be. My garment none has 
lifted* The fruit which I bore has become the sun 4 ." It is 
significant that the later and especially the Christian writers 
speak of Osiris and not Horus as the son of Isis ; but the 
distinction between father and son in the Egyptian triads was 
never sharply defined, and there are many signs that Horus, 
the son of Isis, was looked upon as Osiris re-born 5 . 

The initiation strictly so-called was concluded with a banquet 

1 Aptdeius, M ek c. 24. 

* See last note. 

a Ra was always the material sun; while Horns was probably in 
ancient times the god of the sky ; Maspero, jfc SgyptoL t. u. p. 229. With 
the Middle Empire the emblem of Ra began to be added to that of Horns 
as the " crest " of the Pharaoh's cognizance, showing that the Mng was 
himself regarded as the representative of a composite divinity, Homs-Ha* 
OL " Titles of Thinite Kings," P.B&A. 1908, p. 89, 

4 Proclus, in Tima&um Pkdoma, L 30 r>. (Schneidewin). 

* Mimicius Felix, Ocfavius, c. X2X ; Amobius, ocfc?. Gwdes, Bk i. c. 36 ; 
Athenagoras* Presbma f c. xxu. Of. also Griffith and Thompson, Stories of 
High Priests of Memphis, pp, 107, 121 ; Maspero, j& Sgyptol n, p. 246, 
and especially p, 361 ; P.S.B.A. 1914, pp. 92, 93. 



64 The Alexamlrian Divinities [OH. 

provided by the initiate in which he celebrated what he was 
henceforth to regard as his natal day, as his formal entry into 
the religion was considered by him as a re-birth. Nor was this 
all. Twelve months after his initiation into the first degree 
or Mysteries of Isis, Apuleius 5 hero is summoned to undergo a 
further initiation, this time into the mysteries " of the Great 
God and highest progenitor of the Gods, the unconquered Osiris 
(magni dei deumgue summi parentis, invicti Osiris)" of which 
we are only told that a further preparation of ten days was 
necessary and that the aspirant was in addition " enlightened 
by the nocturnal orgies of the princely god Serapis (insuper 
etiam Serapis principalis dei nocturnis orgiis ittiistratus)\" 
Very shortly after this a third initiation was prescribed to Lucius 
and was backed up by a dream in which Osiris " the God of the 
great Gods, or rather the Highest of the Greater Gods and the 
Greatest of the Highest and the Euler of the Greatest (deus deum 
magnorum potior et majorum summus et summoruwi maximus et 
maximfrum regnator Osiris) " appears to him ; but we learn 
nothing of the nature of this fresh initiation, save that it was 
preceded like the two others by a ten-days' fast 2 . No other 
text or monument that has yet come to light gives any hint 
as to the revelations made in these two last degrees or initiations ; 
but it seems likely from the words above quoted that they were 
concerned with the true nature of Osiris 3 , and that he must have 
been finally proclaimed to the initiate as the one and only Source 
of Being. The apparent inconsistency between this and Isis' 
own statement given above that she is herself the " highest 
of godheads... first of the heavenly ones, one-formed type of 

1 Apuleius, Met. Bk xi. c. 27. 

2 Op. cit, c. 28. 

8 JSlius Aristides (in &&rapid. p. 88) refuses to discuss this ; but 
Athenagoras (see note 5 p. 63, supra) says that when the members of the 
body of Osiris were found, they were presented to Isis with the remark that 
they were the fruits of the vine Dionysus and that Semele was the vine 
itself. But see p. 65, infra. Plutarch, de Is. et Os. c. LXXIX. says that 
" the priests of these days," meaning, as is evident from the context, the 
priests of the Alexandrian divinities, " try to conceal " the fact that Osiris 
rules over the dead. The old religion of Egypt never did ; but perhaps 
this, too, was part of the secret teaching of the Alexandrian Mysteries. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 65 

gods and goddesses " can perhaps be got over by supposing that 
the Supreme Being was supposed to be at once the father and 
mother of the inferior gods, an idea of which there are many 
traces in the Egyptian myths of later Pharaonic times 1 . Some 
connection between Osiris in his Egyptian form and the Greek 
wine-god Bacchus may be implied by the dream which heralded 
the second initiation showing " one clothed in consecrated linen 
robes, and bearing thyrsi, ivy and certain things which I may 
not mention 2 " ; but M. Baillet has found a bronze statue of 
the Ptolemaic period in which Osiris is represented with grapes 
and a vine-shoot 3 , and it is therefore unlikely that any identi- 
fication of the kind formed part of the secrets reserved for 
initiates 4 . 

This, therefore, seems to be all that can be usefully said 
about the secret part of the worship of the Alexandrian gods. 
But the founders of the cult must have always borne in mind 
that while in every religion there are a few devotees who are 
prepared to go all lengths in theology or enquiry into the nature 
of their gods, the majority are attracted to it more from a vague 
dedira tq^ enter into amjcabi^xelations with the apiritual world 
than from any otjiej: ieeling. Even with the Mysteries of 
Eleusis ? it is fairly certain that only a very small proportion 
of those who attended the ceremonies really grasped the full 
meaning of what they saw and heard. " Many are the thyrsus- 
bearers/' quotes Plato in this connection, " but few are the 
mystes 5 ** ; and it is plain that, as the Telesterion at Eleusis 
could at the outside accommodate three thousand persons, the 
greater part of the huge crowd in the lacehos procession must 
have come only to look on 6 . But even this more or less 

1 Maspero, &. figyptol n. pp. 254-255, 361, 446 ; P.S.B.A, 1914, p. 92. 

2 Apuleius, Met, c, 27. 

3 "Osiris-Bacchus" in Agypt. Zeitschr. 1878, p. 106. 

4 Unless we suppose that the statue was one of those used hi the 
mysteries, see note 3 p. 64, supra. Hutarch, however, in Ms address to 
Idea makes no secret of the identification. See de Is. zt O$. c. xxxv. 

* Plato, Pkaedr. in Abel's OrpMca, Eragm. 228. Olympiodorus says 
that the verse comes from Orpheus. 

6 Dyer, God& in hreece> p. 209, He thinks the crowd sometimes 
numbered 30,000, retving upon the story in Herodotus, Bk vm, c. 65, 
L, 5 



6t> The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

careless multitude did much to spread the fame of the Eleusinian 
religion, while it was doubtless from their ranks in the first 
instance that the true initiates were drawn. With this in view, 
the Alexandrian priests laid themselves out to cater for the 
half-convinced crowd as well as for their real devotees, and did 
so with a success which put the Eleusinian Mysteries entirely 
in the shade. In this, they were much helped by the practice 
of the native Egyptian temples in Pharaonic times which has 
been clearly set forth by M. Moret. Every day in every temple 
in Egypt there seems to have been a solemn Service of Opening 
when the statue of the god was taken from its resting-place, 
purified with incense, dressed, and anointed before the doors 
were opened, and the public, or perhaps only the king as repre- 
senting mankind in general, were admitted to adore the god 1 . 
This practice was copied with great fidelity in the worship 
of the Alexandrian gods, and " the morning opening of the 
temple " (templi matwtinas apertiones) became an elaborate 
ceremony in which the white curtains which hid the statue of 
Isis from the gaze of the worshippers were drawn back (velis 
candentibus reductis), and it was displayed blazing with actual 
robes, gems, and ornaments, like a Madonna in Southern Europe 
at the present day 2 . We also learn from Apuleius that prayers 
to the goddess were offered at the same time, while oae of the 
priests made the circuit of the different altars within the temple, 
pouring before each of them a libation of Nile water, and " the 
beginning of the First Hour " was solemnly proclaimed, with 
chants and shouts which have been compared to the muezzin 
of the Mahommedans, but which more probably resembled 
the choral singing of a morning hymn by the assembled con- 
gregation 3 . We know also from a casual allusion in one of 
Martial's Epigrams, that the eighth hour was also celebrated by 



of the Spartan who before the battle of Marathon heard the lacchos-song 
sung " as if by 30,000 persons." Of. Foucart, Les Gds. Myst. p. 136. 

1 Moret, Le Quite Dimn Journcdier en figypte, Paris, 1902, p. 9. 

2 Apuleius, Met. c. 20. Lafaye, CuUe, etc. p. 136, gives the "trousseau" 
of a statue of Isis found in Spain including earrings, necklaces, etc. 

8 See the scene in the Herculaneum fresco described on p. 68, infra* 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 67 

a chant of the priests, and it seems likely that this announced 
the closing of the temple to the profane, and was attended by 
similar solemnities to those of the opening 1 . But it is abundantly 
plain that between these hours the temple remained open for 
what may be called private worship, and that this took the form 
of meditation or silent adoration before the statue of Isis. 
Apuleras 5 Lucius repeatedly speaks of the pleasure that he 
derived even before his initiation from the prolonged con- 
templation of the goddess's image 2 , and the Eoman poets 
are full of allusions to the devout who passed much of their time 
seated before her statue on benches, the place of which is clearly 
marked out in Isiac temples like that of Pompeii 3 . That such 
" meditations " were thought to have in them a saving grace 
is apparent from a passage in Ovid, where he tells us that he 
had seen one who had offended " the divinity of the linen-clad 
Isis " sitting before her altar 4 , and it also seems to have been 
part of the necessary preparation for those who sought initia- 
tion. When we consider that the Eleusinian festivals were 
celebrated at the most but twice a year, and then only in one 
part of Greece, we see how greatly the daily services and 
frequentation of the temples in nearly every large town in the 
West must have operated in drawing to the Alexandrian 
worship the devotion of the citizens. 

In addition to these, however, there were far more elaborate 
ceremonies of which we obtain a passing glimpse. At Her- 
culaneum, were found early in last century two mural frescoes 
portraying scenes in the worship of Isis, and of an Isis who, 
from the style of the paintings and the place where they were 
found, can be no other than the Alexandrian goddess. One of 
these, now in the Museum at Naples^ shows a temple surrounded 
by trees, the porch of which is approached by a staircase and 

1 Martial, Bk x. Epig. 48. Apuleius, Met. c. 17, describes the cere- 
monies which included a solemn dismissal of the people, and the kissing 
by them of the feet of a silver statue of the goddess. 

2 Apuleius, M et. c. 19. 

3 Lafaye, Cutie, etc. pp. 118, 119, and Plate facing p. 192. Cf. Ovid, 
Propertius and Tibullus, where quoted by Lafaye, op. cit. p. 120. 

4 Ovid, Pontic. E$iM. Bk I. Bp, 1, V. 51, 

52 



68 The AlexawMan Divinities [CEL 

is guarded by two sphinxes 1 . Before the door and at the head 
of the stairs stands a priest with the shaven crown of the Alex- 
andrian priesthood, holding with both hands an urn breast-high, 
while behind him are two others, one of whom (probably a 
woman) is completely clothed, wears long hair, and shakes 
a sistrum, while the other is naked to the waist and has his 
head shaved like the central figure. At the foot of the 
staircase is another priest bearing a sistrum in his left hand 
and a sort of pointed baton or hiltless sword in his right 2 , 
with which he seems to be commanding a body of persons of 
both sexes, who from the shaven crowns of the men are evidently 
a congregation or college of initiates, and are ranged in two 
rows upon the steps. In the foreground are three altars, the 
middle one with a fire burning on it, which an attendant is 
fanning, while on the right of this is a flute-player seated on 
the ground, having in front of him a priest with a wand like 
that before described in either hand, and on the left a man and 
a woman shaking sistra. The scene evidently represents a 
religious service of some kind, and this may possibly be, as. 
M. Lafaye suggests, the Adoration of the Sacred Water or water 
of the Nile, which as Plutarch and Apuleius both hint, was 
considered the emblem of Osiris 3 . If so, we may further suppose 
that the initiates are here singing antiphonally, or in two choirs* 
the hymn to Serapis, a particular air on the flute being, as we 
shall see, sacred to that god. The other fresco shows a temple 
porch like its fellow, although the steps leading up to it are fewer 
in number and the two sphinxes on either side of the opening 
are here replaced by two Doric pillars ornamented with garlands. 
The central figure is a bearded man of black complexion, 

1 The Baron von Bissing thinks this is a copy of the Serapeum of 
Alexandria, See Transactions of the Third International Congress of 
Religions, Oxford, 1908, I. pp. 225 egg. 

2 IB this the bacchos or short rod earned by the faithful in the lacchos- 
procession at Eleusls ? See Scholiast in Knights of Aristophanes, L 408- 
(p. 48 of Didot). 

3 Hippolytus puts it quite plainly : " Now Osiris is water." See 
PMlosqp7mmma 9 Bk v. c. 7, p. 149, Crtdce. Of. Lafaye, Culte, etc. p. 115. 
So Origen* c. Oel& f Bk v. c. S8, says that the fables of Osiris and Isis lead 
men to worship cold water and the moon. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 69 

crowned with the lotus and a chaplet of leaves. One hand rests 
on his hip, and the other is raised in the air, which attitude, 
perhaps from its likeness to that of the statue known as the 
Dancing Faun, has given rise to the idea that it is a sacred 
dance which is here represented 1 . Behind this figure are two 
women, one of whom plays a tympanum or tambourine, two 
children, and a priest or initiate with shaven crown, sistrum 
in hand, and naked to the waist. In the foreground is the altar 
seen in the other fresco, with a flame rising from it, and standing 
to the right of it a priest with a sistrum and another musical 
instrument in his hands, a flute-player, a child, a kneeling man, 
a woman clothed in a long garment and bearing, besides the 
sistrum, a palm-branch, and other worshippers. On the left 
is a priest with a sistrum, a child bearing in one hand a basket 
and in the other a small urn, while a woman crowned with 
leaves, with a sistrum and a dish filled with fruits, kneels at 
the head of the steps. From the black complexion of the 
principal figure, M. Lafaye considers that he may represent 
Osiris himself and that he is here shown at the moment of 
resurrection, a scene which he considers, not without reason, 
may have formed the concluding act in one of the sacred dramas 
or mystery-plays undoubtedly associated with the worship of 
the god. If so, it is unlikely that it formed part of the initiation 
into the Mysteries, the particulars of which were carefully 
concealed from the profane and would hardly have been painted 
on the walls of temples or dwelling-houses. It seems more 
probable that the scene in question, whatever be its meaning, 
was acted in pantomime in, or rather before, the temple at a 
particular period of the year, that the uninitiated were allowed 
to be present at it as well as at the Adoration of the Sacred 
Water, and that these two therefore were familiar and attractive 
objects to the populace throughout the Roman world. 

That the Passion as it was distinctly called and Resur- 
rection of Osiris were yearly and openly celebrated by the 
worshippers of the Alexandrian gods with alternate demon- 
strations of grief and joy, the classical poets have put beyond 

1 von Biasing in the paper quoted in note 1 p. 68, supra, suggests that 
this is the dance of the god Bes, 



70 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

doubt. The celebration took place in the month of November 
and began with a ten-day fast on the part of all the faithful 
which was often spent in the temples. Then followed the 
representation of the passion of and the seeking for Osiris, and 
its result, which a Christian writer of the mrd century A.D. 1 
thus sums up : 

" You behold the swallow 2 and the cymbal of Isis, and the tomb of 
your Serapis or Osiris empty, with his limbs scattered about.. . .Isis 
bewails, laments and seeks after her lost son 3 3 with her Cynocephalus 4 
and her bald-headed priests ; and the wretched worshippers of Isis 
beat their breasts, and imitate the grief of the most unhappy mother. 
By and by, when the little boy is found, Isis rejoices, and the priests 
exult. Cynocephalus the discoverer boasts, and they do not cease 
year by year either to lose what they find, or to find what they lose." 

" These," he says, " were formerly Egyptian rites, and now 
are Roman ones " ; and it is plain that all the incidents of 
which he speaks were perfectly familiar to the Roman people. 
Juvenal 5 speaks of the. bald-headed multitude uttering lamen- 
tations and running to and fro, and of their exultant cries when 
Osiris is found ; and the banquets in the temples and great 
festivals and public games which celebrated the " Finding of 
Osiris" when the Alexandrian worship was recognized by the 
state must have made the recurrence of this chief festival of 
the Alexandrian religion familiar to every one 6 . 

How many lesser festivals than these formed part of its 
public ceremonial we do not know, but they were probably 
numerous enough. The Roman calendars tell us of a festival 
of Isis Pharia, probably in her capacity of tutelary goddess of 

1 Miimcius Felix, Octaviits, c. 21. 

2 The swallow refers to the story that Isis changed herself into a 
swallow who flitted round the pillar containing the coffin of Osiris. Plu- 
tarch, de Is* et Os. c. xvi. 

3 Evidently a confusion between Horus and Osiris which would have 
been impossible had not the Isiacists looked upon Horus as Osiris re-born. 
Of. Lactantius, Institutes, Bk I. c. 21, where the same confusion occurs ; 
P.8.B.A. 1914, p. 93. 

4 The "dog-headed" Anubis. 

* Juvenal, Satir. vi. L 533 ; ibid. vm. L 30. 

Lafaye, Culte, etc. p. 128. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 71 

Alexandria, and of another of Serapis, both in the month of 
April, while Plutarch speaks of the Birth of Horns celebrated, 
as was natural with a sun-god, after the vernal equinox, when 
nature awakens and the sun begins to show forth his power. 
But there was another spring festival which took place on the 
5th of March 1 to mark the reopening of navigation and commerce 
after the departure of winter, in which the faithful went in 
procession to the sea (or probably in its absence to the nearest 
water), and there set afloat a new ship filled with offerings 
which was known as the vessel of Isis, Apuleius has left us 
a description of this festival at once so lively and so imbued with 
the spirit of the devout Isiacist, that it may be pardonable to 
quote from it at some length. The procession, which in the case 
he is describing sets forth at dawn from the gates of Cenchreae 
the eastern port of Corinth, is heralded by a carnival in which 
burlesque representations of magistrates, gladiators, hunters, 
and fishermen jostle with caricatures of ancient Greek heroes 
and demigods like Bellerophon and Ganymede. After this had 
dispersed, "the procession proper of the Saviour Goddess," 
he says, set itself in motion, and may be described in his own 
words 2 : 

" Women shining in white garments displayed their joy by divers 
gestures, and crowned with spring blossoms strewed from their laps 
flowers upon the road over which inarched the holy throng. Others, 
with glittering mirrors held behind them, showed to the advancing 
Goddess their ready service. Others, who bore ivory combs, by the 
motion of their arms and the twining of their fingers represented the 
combing of her royal hair, while yet others sprinkled the ways with 
drops of sweet-smelling balsam and other unguents. A great crowd 
also of both sexes followed with lamps, torches, candles and other 
kinds of lights making propitious with light the source of the hea- 
venly stars. Thereafter came gentle harmonies, and reeds and flutes 
sounded with sweetest modulations. A graceful choir of chosen 
youths followed, shining in snowy dresses of ceremony and singing 
a beautiful hymn which by grace of the Muses a skilful poet had set 
to music, although its theme recalled the prayers of our forefathers, 

1 Lafaye, CuMe, etc. p. 120. 

2 Apuleras, Mel. cc. 9, 10, 1L 



72 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

Then came flute-players consecrated to the great Serapis, who on 
tlxe slanted reed held under the right ear, repeated the air usual in 
the temple of the God, in order that everyone might be warned to 
make room for the passage of the holy things. Then pressed on 
the multitude of those who had been initiated into the divine 
mysteries, both, men and women of every rank and age, shining in 
the pure whiteness of their linen robes, the women with hair moist 
with perfume and covered with a transparent veil, the men with 
closely shaven hair and glistening heads. Earthly stars of the great 
religion were these, who made a shrill tinkling with brazen silver 
or even gold sistra. Then came the priests of the holy things, those 
distinguished men who, tightly swathed in white linen from the 
breast-girdle to the feet, displayed to view the noble emblems of 
the most mighty G-od. The first held forth a lamp shining with 
clear light, not exactly resembling those which give light to nocturnal 
banquets, but in the form of a golden boat and emitting a broader 
flame through its central opening. The second, clothed in the same 
way as the first, carried in his two hands the little altars, i.e. the 
auwilia, to which the helping foresight of the high Goddess has given 
a peculiar name. The third bore a palm-tree with tiny golden 
leaves, and likewise the caduceus of Mercury. The fourth exhibited 
the emblem of Equity, a left hand represented with outstretched 
palm, which from its inborn disinclination to work, and as being 
endowed with neither skill nor expertness, seems better suited to 
typify Equity than the right. He also bore a golden vase in the 
rounded shape of a female breast, from which he poured libations 
of milk. The fifth carried a winnowing-fan composed of golden wires, 
and yet another an amphora. 

** Without interval, the Gods who have deigned to walk with 
the feet of men go forward. Here dread sight ! is he who is the 
messenger between the supernal and the infernal deities. Upright, 
of a complexion black in some parts, golden in others, Anubis raises 
on high his dog's head, bearing in his left hand the caduceus, and 
shaking in his right the budding palm-branch 1 . Close upon his 
footsteps, follows a cow, held on high in an erect posture the cow, 
fertile image of the Goddess who brings forth all things which one 
of the "blessed ministry with pantomimic steps bears seated on his 
shoulders. The chest containing the mysteries was carried by 

1 Is this the " golden bough " of initiation ? Cf. Baillet, " Osiris- 
Bacchus," cited p. 65, supra. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 78 

another, thus wholly concealing the hidden things of the sublime 
religion 1 . Yet another bore within Ms happy bosom the revered 
likeness of the Supreme Divinity, resembling neither a domestic 
animal, nor bird, nor wild beast, nor even man himself ; but yet 
to be revered in the highest degree alike for its skilful invention, 
and for its very novelty, and also as that unspeakable evidence of 
the religion which should be veiled in complete silence. As to its 
outward form, it was fashioned in glittering gold an urn hollowed 
out with perfected art with a round base and carved externally with 
the marvellous images of the Egyptians. Its mouth was not much 
raised and jutted forth in an extended spout with a wide stream ; 
while on the opposite side was attached the handle bent far out 
with a wide sweep, on which sate an asp in wreathed folds uplifting 
the swollen stripes of his scaly neck." 

This description will leave little doubt on the mind of the 
reader as to the supreme importance in the religion of the urn 
which is being held up for the adoration of the faithful in the 
fresco from Herculaneum before described ; and this is borne 
out by a bas-relief in the Vatican in which a similar urn to that 
described by Apuleius is represented as being carried in pro- 
cession 2 . "They say," says Hippolytus speaking of the wor- 
shippers of Isis, " that Osiris is water," and Celsus, according 
to Origen, confirms him in this 3 . According to this last, Isis 
represented the earth, and the doctrine may therefore, be an 
allegory representing the fertilization of the land by the Nile. 
It is more likely, however, that it is to be attributed to one of 
the older cosmogonies current in Egypt, wherein water, per- 
sonified by the god Nu, is the origin of everything 4 . The main 

1 Probably the "pudendum of Osiris. See Hippolytus, Philosophumena, 
Bk v. c. 7, p. 149, Cruice ; Socrates, Hist. Eccl. Bk v. c. 16 ; Clem. Alex. 
Protrept. c. n., says the Corybantes did the same thing with that of 
Bacchus. 

2 Lafaye in Daremberg and Saglio's Diet, des Antiq. s.v. Isis. 

* See note 3 p. 68, supra. Of. Leemans, Papyri Gr. pp. 26, 27. 

* Maspero, Hi. HigyptoL r p. 345, says this Nu was "neither the 
primordial water, nor the sky, but a very ancient god, common to all 
humanity," whom he compares to the Thian of the Chinese, the Dyaus 
of the pre-Vedio, and the Uranos-0<jeanos of the pre-Hellenic peoples. 
" At the beginning," he continues, " he is himself the Celestial Ocean." 



74 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

point to note for our present purpose is that an urn or vase 
containing liquid, was, in the public ceremonies of the Alex- 
andrian religion, the recognized symbol of the Supreme Being. 
Apuleius next describes the procession as having reached 
the seashore where the images of the gods were arranged in 
order * : 

tc Then the Chief Priest, pouring forth with chaste mouth the most 
solemn prayers, consecrated and dedicated to the goddess, after having 
thoroughly purified it with a lighted torch, an egg, and some sulphur, 
a ship made with the highest art and painted all over with the 
wonderful pictures of the Egyptians. The shining sail of this blessed 
bark had the words of a prayer woven in it ; and these words re- 
iterated the petition that the navigation then commencing might 
be prosperous. And now the mast was stepped, a round piece of 
pine, lofty and smooth, and conspicuous from the handsome appear- 
ance of its truck, and the poop with its twisted goose-neck shone 
covered with gold-leaf, while the whole hulk was gay with polished 
citron wood. Then all the people, both the religious and the pro- 
fane, heaped emulously together winnowing-fans laden with spices 
and such like offerings, and poured upon them crumbled cakes 
made with milk, until the ship, filled with magnificent gifts offered 
in fulfilment of vows, was loosed from its moorings and put to sea 
with a gentle breeze that seemed to spring up on purpose. After 
her course became indistinct to us by reason of the distance that 
she was from our eyes, the bearers of the holy things again took up 
each his own load, and joyfully returned to the fane in the same 
solemn procession as before. But when we arrived at the temple, 
the Chief Priest and the bearers of the divine effigies, and those who 
have been already initiated into the ever to be revered secrets, 
entering into the chamber of the Goddess put away the breathing 
images with due ceremony. Then one of them, whom men call the 
Scribe, standing before the doors and having called together as if 
for a discourse the company of the Pastophori 2 which is the name 
of this sacrosanct college forthwith recited from a lofty pulpit 
prayers written in a book for the Great Prince, the Senate, the 
Equestrian Order, and the whole Roman people, their sailors and 

1 Apuleius, Met. Bk xi. c. 16. 

2 The bearers of the sacred Pastes (box or coffin ?). He says elsewhere 
that this particular college dated from " the days of Sulla," i.e. 87-84 B.O. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 75 

ships, and all who are under the sway of our native land, and then 
closed the address according to the Greek rite thus : c Let the people 
depart 1 .' WMch announcement was followed by a shout of the 
people showing that it was favourably received by all. Then the 
multitude, rejoicing exceedingly and bearing olive-branches, laurel- 
twigs, and chaplets, after having kissed the feet of a statue of the 
goddess fashioned in silver which stood on steps [within the porch ?], 
departed to their own homes." 

What most strikes one in this account by an eye-witness, 
which must have been written about the year 170 A.D., is the 
entirely modern tone of it all. In the scene that passes under 
Lucius' eyes, there is hardly anything that might not be seen 
at an Italian festa at the present day. The joyous crowd, 
respectful rather than devout, and not above introducing a 
comic or rather a burlesque element into the day's rejoicing, 
the images and sacred vessels carried solemnly along, the crowd 
of tonsured priests, and the chants and hymns sung in chorus, 
the return to the temple, with its prayers for Church and State, 
and its dismissal of the people all these are paralleled every 
day in countries where the Catholic Church is still dominant. 
Not less modern, too, is the way in which Lucius alludes to the 
faith of which all these things illustrate the power. For him, 
there is no other god than Isis " thou who art all 2 ," as one of 
her votaries calls her on his tombstone, in whom " single in 
essence, though with many names 3 ," all other gods are contained. 
Hence, he can think of no other religion than her worship. It 
is always with him " the holy " or " the sublime religion," and 
the goddess is she whom the whole earth adores. It is she in 
whom one can trust not only for happiness beyond the tomb, 
but for present help in all the troubles of this life, and to devote 
oneself to her service, to thoroughly learn, to understand her 
nature, is the proudest lot which can befall man while upon 
earth. Hence all her initiates were " earthly stars," her priests 
were all happy or blessed in that they were allowed to be near 

1 The reading has been contested, but is well established. Gf. the 
concluding words of the Mass : "Ite, missa est." 

2 "Una quae es <mm&" C.I.N. 3580. The stone was found at Capua. 
a Apuleius, Met. Bk XL c. 5. 



76 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

and even to carry and handle the divine images, and the religion 
was a real bond which united people of all ranks and ages. We 
feel that we have here got a very long way from the time when 
the power of each god was supposed to be limited to the small 
space surrounding his sanctuary. 

That this change had been brought about by the work of 
the Isiac priesthood, there can be little doubt. Between the 
foundation of the Alexandrian religion by Ptolemy and the 
date at which Apuleius wrote, a space of five centuries elapsed, 
and this must have seen many changes in the constitution 
of what may be called the Isiac Church. The Greeks always 
set their faces against anything like a priestly caste set apart 
from the rest of the community, and the priests of the Hellenic 
gods were for the most part elected, like modern mayors of 
towns, for a short term only, after which they fell back into the 
ranks of the laity with as little difficulty as do municipal officers 
at the present day. The Eleusinian Mysteries were indeed 
committed to certain families in whom their priesthood was 
hereditary ; but no professional barriers existed between these 
families and the rest of the citizens ; and we find Callias, the 
" torch-bearer " and one of the highest officials at the Mysteries, 
not only fighting in the ranks at Marathon, but distinguishing 
himself by his " cruelty and injustice " in retaining an unfair 
share of the plunder for himself 1 . The Bumolpidae and 
Lycomidae of Eleusis, also, were probably maintained not by 
any contribution from the state, but by the revenues of the 
temple lands and by the fee of a few obols levied from each 
initiate. But the Alexandrian Church in Egypt must from the 
first have been endowed and probably established as well. 
To judge from the analogous case of the dynastic cult or 
worship of the sovereign, which Ptolemy Soter set up, the 
" sublime religion " was in its native Egypt maintained by a 
tax on the revenues of those wakf or temple lands held in mort- 
main with which the native gods of Egypt were so richly pro- 
vided from the earliest times. When the Alexandrian religion 
became a missionary faith and established itself in Athens and 
other parts of the Hellenic world, it no doubt depended in the 
1 Plutarch, AriMides, c. v. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 77 

first instance on the voluntary contributions of the associations 
of Sarapiasts or Isiaci founded for its maintenance. But we 
may be sure that politic princes like the first three Ptolemies, 
who were besides the richest and most opulent of all the 
Successors of Alexander, did not let these outposts of their 
empire languish for lack of funds, and we may guess that 
the subscriptions of their members were supplemented in 
case of need by large donations from the Bang of Egypt or 
from those who wished to stand well with him. When the 
faith passed into Western Europe and into territories directly 
under Roman sway, it had already attained such fame that a 
large entrance-fee could be demanded from the initiates, and 
Apuleius tells us more than once that the amount of this was in 
every case fixed by a special revelation of the goddess^ and was 
no doubt only limited by the length of the aspirant's purse and 
the strength of his vocation 1 . Like other Greek priests of the 
time, also, the ministers of the Alexandrian religion found a way 
of adding to their income by the practice of divination or fore- 
telling the future, and the oracle of Serapis at Alexandria soon 
became as celebrated in the Hellenistic world as that of Delphi. 
There were probably more ways than one of consulting this ; 
but the one which seems to have been specially its own, and 
which afterwards spread from Egypt into all the temples of the 
faith in other countries, was by the practice of incubatio which 
meant sleeping either personally or by deputy in the precinct 
of the god until the consultant had a dream in which the god's- 
answer was declared. Such a practice seems to date from the 
dream sent to Ptolemy Soter at the foundation of the religion, 
and doubtless formed a great source of revenue to its priesthood 2 . 
The highest personages in the Roman Empire deigned to resort 
to it, and Vespasian was vouchsafed a divine vision in the 
temple of Serapis when he consulted the god about " the affairs 



1 Apuleius, Met. cc. 21, 28, 30. 

2 See p. 48, supra. Oracles given in dreams were, however, an old 
institution in Egypt. See the dream of Thothmes IV concerning the 
Sphinx, Breasted, History of Mgyffi, p. 325, and Ancient Records, Chicago 
1906, voL n. No. 815. 



78 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

of the Empire 1 . 55 Not unconnected with this were the miracu- 
lous cures with which Serapis, originally perhaps by confusion 
with Asklepios the Greek god of healing 2 , was credited. The 
sick man was given a room in the temple precincts, where he 
doubtless lived the regular and orderly life of a modern hospital, 
and before long dreamed of a remedy for the malady on which 
his thoughts were concentrated. As the mind sometimes 
influences the body, and a belief in the healing power of the 
medicine is often of more importance than its nature, lie very 
often recovered, and was no doubt expected to be generous 
in his offerings to the god who had intervened in his cure. Nor 
were worse means of raising money unknown to the Alexandrian 
priests, unless they have been greatly belied. They are said 
to have acted as panders and procurers for the rich, and it was 
the seduction of a noble Roman lady by a lover who assumed the 
garb of the god Anubis which led to their expulsion from the 
Pomoerium under Tiberius 8 . Astrology, too, which depended 
entirely on mathematical calculations and tables, was peculiarly 
an Alexandrian art, and the same Manetho who had been one 
of the persons consulted at the founding of the Alexandrian 
religion was said to have taught its principles to the Greeks. 
Whether this be so or not, it is certain that in Ovid's time the 
Alexandrian priests used to beg in the streets of Rome after 
the fashion of the Buddhist monks from whom they may have 
indirectly borrowed the practice, and that it was thought 
" unlucky " to reject their importunities 4 . 

It is plain, however, that, by the time Apuleius wrote, the 

1 Tacitus, HisL Bk iv. co. 81, 82. 

2 Asklepios or Esculapiua was one of the gods absorbed by Serapis. 
It is most probable that the great statue by Bryaxis in the Alexandrian 
Serapeum was originally aa Asklepios. See Bonehe-Leclercq, Eev. de 
FHist. des jKeL 1902, pp. 26, 27, 28. There seems also to have been a chapel 
to him in the Greek Serapeum at Memphis. See Brunet de Presle, 
"Le Serapeum de Memphis,*' Paris, 1865, pp. 261-263. Of. Forshall, 
Greek Papyri in tJie British Museum,. 1839, p. 33, and note 1 p. 80, 
infra. 

8 Joseph.^ Antiquities, Bk xvm. cc. 3, 4. 

* LovataHi, II Quito d> Iside in Roma, Roma, 1891, p. 174 ; Ovid, 
Pontic. Epist. Bk I. Ep. i. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 79 

necessity for any such, shifts had passed away. The Alexandrian 
religion had then become a state religion, and was served by a 
fully organized and powerful priesthood. As there were not 
less than seven temples of Isis in Eome itself, the number of 
the Ronxan faithful must have been very considerable, and on 
their offerings and the gifts of the state, a large staff of priests 
was maintained. We hear not only of a high, priest in each 
temple to whom all the lesser ministers of the cult were 
apparently subject 1 , but of hierophants, scribes, stolists or ward- 
robe-keepers, singing-men and singing-women, and a host of 
subordinate functionaries down to the neocoros or temple- 
sweeper and the eliduchos or guardian of the keys. Women as 
well as men were eligible for some of these offices, and the in- 
scriptions tell us of a female oneirocrites or interpreter of dreams 
and of several canephorae or carriers of the sacred basket, besides 
many priestesses whose functions are not defined 2 . The high 
priest and the more important officers lived in the temple and 
probably devoted their whole time to its service 3 ; but the 
lesser offices seem to have been capable of being held concur- 
rently with lay occupations, like that of the churchwardens 
at the present day. But one and all were devoted to the faith 
and its propagation, and formed in the words of Apuleius " a 
sacred soldiery " for its extension and defence. It is probable 
that they were all drawn in the first instance from the ranks of 
the initiates only. 

These were what may be called the secular clergy of the 
Alexandrian Church; but there was in addition a body of 
devotees attached to it whose mode of life singularly reminds 
us of that afterwards adopted by the Christian monks. A 
lucky chance has revealed to us some fragments of papyrus 
found on the site of the Serapeum at Memphis, which contain 
among other things the petitions of a Macedonian named 
Ptolemy the son of Glaucias to King Ptolemy VI Philometor 

1 AsHLalaye (Cidte, etc, p. 132) points out, the Merophant in Apuleius 
calls the other priests " his company," suu$ wumerus (Met. c. 21). 
3 For all these, see Lafaye, op. tit. chap, vn : Le Sacerdoce. 
z Lafaye, op. tit* p. 150. 



80 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

about the year 166 B.C. 1 From these it is evident that there 
were at that time a body of recluses lodged in the Serapeum 
who were vowed to a seclusion so complete that they might not 
stir forth from their cells under any pretence, and when the 
king visited Memphis he had to speak with his namesake and 
petitioner through the window of the latter's chamber. These 
recluses were in some way devoted to the service of the god, 
and their stay in the temple was to all appearance voluntary, 
although in Ptolemy's case, it had at the time he wrote lasted 
already fifteen years. He does not seem to have been driven to 
this by poverty, as he speaks of a considerable property left him 
by his father ; and as the object of his petitions is to champion 
the rights of two priestesses of Serapis who had been wrongfully 
deprived of their dues of bread and oil by the officials of the 
temple, he seems to have been in some sort given to the per- 
formance of " good works." How he otherwise occupied his 
time, and whether his title or description of /earcr^o? implied 
any connection with the oracle of Serapis is still a disputed 
point. Yet the correspondence in which his name appears 
shows clearly the existence within the Serapeum of a large 
population of both men and women living at the expense of the 
temple revenues, some of whom took part in the ritual of the 
services there celebrated, while others were fixed by their own 
vows in the strictest seclusion. Whichever way the controversy 
alluded to above is decided, it seems plain that there is here a 
parallel between the practice of the Catholic Church with its 
division of the clergy into regular and secular and the Alexandrian 



1 These fragments are scattered among the different European 
museums. Some are in the Vatican Library and were published by 
Mgr. Angelo Mai in 1833 (Brunet de Presle, "Les Papyri Greos du Louvre,'* 
M6n. de FAcad. des Inscript. xvm. pt 2 (1865), p. 16), others in the 
Leyden Museum (Leemans, Papyri Gfraeti, I. pp. 6 4gj?.) others in the 
Louvre (Brunet de Presle, op, tit. p. 22), and the largest number in the 
British Museum (Kenyon, Greek Papyri> p. 1). The whole story, so far as 
it has been ascertained, is told by Brunet de Presle, op. tit. pp. 261-263, 
and by Sir Frederic Kenyon, op. tit. pp. 1-6, and the questions arising out 
of it are admirably summed up by M, Bouch^-Leclercq in his article, " Les 
Reclus du Serapeum de Memphis " in Melanges, Perrot, Paris, 1903, p. 17. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 81 


religion, which until the discovery of the papyri some fifty years 

ago was entirely unsuspected. 

It has been said above that the Alexandrian religion reached 
its apogee in the time of the Antonines. How it came to decline 
in power cannot be traced with great exactness, but it seems 
probable that it only lost its hold on the common people from 
the greater attractions presented by other religions competing 
with it for the popular favour. Other cults began to press in 
from the East, including the worship of Mithras, which in the 
time of Diocletian finally supplanted it in the favour of the state, 
and acquired perhaps a stronger hold on the army from reasons 
to be examined in detail when we come to deal with the Mithraic 
religion. But the rise of Christianity is in itself sufficient to 
account for its decline in popularity among the lower classes of 
the Empire. To them the Catholic Church, purged and 
strengthened by a sporadic and intermittent persecution, 
offered advantages that the Alexandrian religion could never 
give. In this last, the possession of wealth must always have 
assured its possessor a disproportionate rank in the religion, 
and without the expenditure of a large sum of money, it was 
impossible, as we have seen, to arrive at its most cherished 
secrets. Nor do we find in any of the few documents of the 
faith that have come down to us any parallel to that wide and 
all-embracing spirit of charity which in its early days made the 
Christian Church a kind of mutual benefit society for all who were 
willing to enter into her fold. To the poorest as to the wealthiest, 
the Catholic Church, too, always held out the promises of a, 
faith to be understood by all and free from the mystery 
with which the cardinal doctrines of the Alexandrians were 
shrouded from all but the highest initiates. Its promises of 
happiness beyond the grave also were extended to even the 
most degraded, and the fulfilment of them was taught to be 
dependent on conduct within the reach of even the pauper or 
the repentant criminal rather than on the long, difficult and 
expensive course of instruction which its rival demanded. Noi? 
were more material inducements neglected. The highest offices 
within the Church were open to the lowest of its members, and 
it was quite possible for a slave or a freedman to ascend the chair 



82 The Alexandrian Divinities . [OH. 

of Peter, there to negotiate on equal terms with, emperors and 
proconsuls. Unlike the religions of the ancient world which 
were first converted by Alexander's conquests from national 
into universal cults, the Christian religion was from its foundation 
organized on the democratic lines laid down in the test ; " He 
that is greatest among you shall be your servant 1 ." Moreover, 
the predictions of the Christian missionaries as to the immediate 
coming of the Second Advent began to spread among the masses 
outside the Church, and found a soil ready to receive them in 
the minds of superstitious men trampled on by the rich, harried 
by the tax-gatherers, and torn this way and that by constant 
insurrections and civil wars stirred up, not by the Roman 
mob (kept quiet as it was with State doles) but by its too 
ambitious masters. Quite apart from the spiritual comfort that 
it brought to many, and from the greater unity and simplicity 
of its doctrines, we can hardly wonder that the proletariat 
everywhere turned eagerly to the new faith. 

The effect of this upon the Alexandrian religion must have 
been fatal. Unfortunately the destruction of pagan literature 
lias been so great that we know hardly anything about its decline 
from the mouths of its adherents 2 . What we are able to perceive 
is that the persons who adhered to the Alexandrian faith after 
the time of the Antonines generally practised many other 
religions as well: Alexander Severus had in his palace a 
lararium or private chapel in which, like most of the later 
Roman emperors, he placed statues of the gods whose worship 
he particularly affected. We find there Serapis and Isis, indeed, 
but surrounded with a great crowd of other divinities together 
with the images of philosophers like Socrates and Apollonius of 
Tyana, and if the Augustan History is to be believed that 

1 Matth. xxiii. 11. CL the Pope's title of " Servant of the Servants of 
God *' (Senms servorum Dei). 

2 Julian in Ms letters (Ep. 52) speaks of Alexandria even in his time 
as being given up to the worship of Serapis. It is probable that in this, 
as in other matters, the philosophic Emperor believed what he wished to 
believe. Yet his contemporary, Ammiamis Marcellinus, Hist. Bk xxn. 
c. 16, 20, speaks of the elements of the sacred rites being still preserved 
there in secret books, by which he seems to be referring to the worship 
of the Alexandrian divinities. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 83 

of the Founder of Christianity Himself 1 . So, too, the funeral 
inscription of Ulpius Egnatius Faventinus, an augur of high rank 
who flourished in the reign of Valens and Valentinian, records 
that the dead nobleman was a priest of Isis, but a hierophant 
of Hecate, a hieroceryx of Mithras, and a " chief Herdsman " 
of Bacchus as well. So, again, Fabia Aeonia Paullina, wife of 
Vettius Praetextatus, a Prefect and Consul Designate of about 
the same period, describes herself on her tombstone as conse- 
crated at Eleusis to Dionysos, Demeter, and Persephone, and a 
hierophantis of Hecate, but merely a worshipper of Isis 2 . We 
see here a great change from the exclusive fervour of Apuleius 5 
Lucius, who thinks it only just that Isis should require him to 
devote his whole life to her service. 

But a violent end was soon to be put even to the public 
exercise of the Alexandrian religion. The conversion of Con- 
stantine had left it unharmed, and we find Julian writing to the 
Alexandrians during his brief reign as if the supremacy of their 
religion in Egypt's capital at any rate was assured 3 . But under 
Theodosius, an order was obtained from the Emperor for the 
demolition of the " heathen " temples at Alexandria, and 
Theophilus, " the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue 4 ," who 
was bishop of the city at the time, was not the man to allow the 
decree to remain a dead letter. According to the ecclesiastical 
historians 5 , he began operations on the temple of Dionysos, 
which he converted into a Christian church. In the course of 
doing so, he professed to have discovered certain emblems of 
virility which seem to have been used in the Mysteries to 
illustrate the legend of the Diaspasm or tearing in pieces of the 
god, and these he had paraded through the city as evidence of 
what the heathens, according to him, worshipped in secret. 
The same emblems were also used in the worship of Isis, where 



1 See Renan, Hibbert Lectures, 1884, p. 197, for authorities. 

2 Orelli, Inscript. Latin, select, pp. 406-412. All these hare now been 
transferred to the Corp. Inscr. Latin, q.v. 

8 See note 2 p. 82, supra. 

* Gibbon, Decline and Fall (Bury's edition), m. p. 200. 
8 Theodoret, Hist. Mc&. Bk v. o. 23 ; Socrates, Hist, Eccl Bk v. c. 16 
Sozomen, Hist. JEJccl. Bk vn. c, 16. 



84 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

they probably were shown to initiates as explaining the loss of 
the generative power by Osiris after his death and passion 1 . 
Hence their profanation was in the highest degree offensive to 
the last adherents of the Alexandrian religion, who, few in 
number but formidable from their position and influence, threw 
themselves into the world-famed Serapeum and determined to 
resist the decree by force of arms. The Christian mob of 
Alexandria, hounded on by the bishop and his monks, assaulted 
the temple which the philosopher Olympius and his followers 
had converted into a temporary fortress, and many attacks 
were repulsed with loss of life to the besiegers. At length, a 
truce having been negotiated until the Emperor could be com- 
municated with, a fresh decree was obtained in which the 
defenders of the temple were promised a pardon for their 
share in the riot, if the Serapeum were quietly given up to the 
authorities. This offer was accepted, and Theophilus had the 
pleasure of seeing Bryaxis' colossal statue of Serapis demolished 
under his own eyes without the event being followed by the 
predicted earthquake and other catastrophes which we are told 
the Christians as well as the heathens confidently expected. 
The magnificent Serapeum with all its wealth of statues and 
works of art was destroyed, and a church dedicated to the 
Emperor Arcadius was afterwards erected on its site. 

Thus in the year 391, the chief seat and place of origin of the 
Alexandrian religion was laid waste, and the religion itself 
perished after a successful reign of seven centuries. Ecclesias- 
tical writers say that this was followed by the conversion of 
several of the " Hellenists " or adherents of the worship of 
Serapis and Isis to Christianity 2 , and there seems every likeli- 
hood that the story is founded on fact. Is this the reason why 
we find so many of the external usages of Isis- worship preserved 
in or revived by the Catholic Church ? Macaulay, in speaking 
of the contest between Catholicism and Protestantism at the 
Eeformation compares it to the fight between Hamlet and 
Laertes where the combatants change weapons. The com- 
parative study of religions shows that the phenomenon is more 
widespread than he thought, and that when one religion finally 
1 See note 1 p. 73, supra. 2 Socrates, op. cit. Bk v. o. 17. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 85 

supplants another, it generally takes over from its predecessor 
such, of its usages as seem harmless or praiseworthy. The 
traditional policy of the Catholic Church in this respect was 
declared by Saint Gregory the Great, when he told the apostle 
to the Saxon heathens that such of their religious and tradi- 
tional observances as could by any means be harmonized with 
orthodox Christianity were not to be interfered with 1 , and this 
was probably the policy pursued with regard to the converts 
from the worship of Serapis. Gibbon 2 has painted for us in 
a celebrated passage the astonishment which "a Tertullian or 
a Lactantius " wo aid have felt could he have been raised from 
the dead to witness the festival of some popular saint or martyr 
in a Christian church at the end of the fifth century. The incense, 
the flowers, the lights, and the adoration of the relics of the saint 
would all, we are told, have moved his indignation as the appan- 
age of heathenism. Yet none of these things would have been 
found in a temple like that of Delphi, where probably no more 
than one worshipper or sacred embassy penetrated at a time, 
and where nothing like congregational worship was known. 
It was, however, the mode of worship to which the Hellenistic 
world had become daily accustomed during the seven centuries 
that the Alexandrian religion had endured, and it is not to be 
wondered at that the converts brought it with them into their 
new faith. The worship of the Virgin as the Theotokos or 
Mother of God which was introduced into the Catholic Church 
about the time of the destruction of the Serapeum, enabled the 
devotees of Isis to continue unchecked their worship of the 
mother goddess by merely changing the name of the object of 
their adoration, and Prof. Drexler gives a long list of the statues 
of Isis which thereafter were used, sometimes with unaltered 
attributes, as those of the Virgin Mary 3 . The general use of 
images, the suspension in the churches of ex wto representations 
of different parts of the human body in gratitude for miraculous 

1 Renan, Marc Aiwele, Paris, 1882, p. 630, for authority, Of. Gibbon, 
Decline and Fall (Bury's edru), iv. pp. 78, 79. 

2 Gibbon, op. tit. m. 

3 Drexler in Roscher's Lexikon, s.v. Isis. Cf. Maury, MeL de la Gr&ce % 
t. n. p. 222. 



86 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

cures of maladies 1 , and the ceremonial burning of candles, 
may also be traced to the same source ; while the institution 
of monachism which had taken a great hold on Christian Egypt, 
is now generally attributed to St Pachomius, who had actually 
been in his youth a recluse of Serapis 2 . Prof. Bury, who thinks 
the action of the earlier faith upon the later in this respect 
undeniable, would also attribute the tonsure of the Catholic 
priesthood to a reminiscence of the shaven crowns of the 
initiates of Isis, to which we may perhaps add the covering of 
women's heads in churches 3 . 

These instances are for the most part fairly well known, 
and some have been made use of in controversy between Pro- 
testants and Catholics ; but it is probable that there were also 
many resemblances between the external usages of the two 
faiths which would, when they flourished side by side, strike 
even the superficial observer, but the traces of which are now 
well nigh lost 4 . " Those who worship Serapis are Christians, 
and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are vowed to 
Serapis," wrote the Emperor Hadrian 5 from Alexandria on his 
visit there in A.D. 124, and this would possibly explain the 
respectful and almost mournful tone in which, as Renan noted, 
the Christian Sibyl announces to.Serapis and Isis the end of their 
reign 6 . It is not impossible that the resemblance which thus, 
deceived the Emperor was connected with the celebration of 

1 Amm. MarcelL op. tit. Bk xxn, c. 13. According to Deubner, 
De incubatione, Leipzig, 1900, c. iv. Cyril of Alexandria had to establish the 
worship of two medical saints in the Egyptian hamlet of Memithis near 
Canopus to induce the people to forget the miraculous cures formerly 
wrought there in the sanctuary of Isis. 

2 Bury in Gibbon, op. tit. vol. iv. Appendix 3, p. 527. 

3 Cf. Apuleius* description of the veiling of the women's heads in the 
Isis procession, p. 72, supra. 

4 A writer in Maspero's Eecueil de Travaux for 1912, p. 75, mentions 
that the Isiac sistrum or rattle is still used by the Christians of Abyssinia. 

5 Vopiscus, Saturninus (Hist. August. Scriptor. vi. t. n. pp. 718-730). 
The authenticity of the letter has been defended by Lightfoot, Apostolic 
Fathers, 1891, I. p. 481. The date is fairly well fixed by the death of 
Antinous in 122 A.D., and Hadrian's visit to Syria a few years later. 
Ramsay (Church in Roman Empire, 1903, p. 336) makes it 134 A.D. 

6 Renan, Marc Aur. p. 433. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 87 

the Eucharist among certain sects of Christians 1 . The Ador- 
ation of the Sacred Water as the emblem of Osiris, which we 
have seen represented on the Herculaneum fresco, has many 
points in common with the exhibition of the Sacrament of the 
Mass to the people, and it is possible that the words of conse- 
cration were not altogether different in the two cases. " Thou 
art wine, yet thou art not wine, but the members of Osiris," says 
a magic papyrus in the British Museum in the midst of an address 
to " Asklepios of Memphis," the god Esculapius being one of 
the gods with whom Serapis in his day of power was most often 
confounded 2 . So, too, M. Revillout has published an amatorium 
or love-charm in which the magician says, "May this wine become 
the blood of Osiris 3 ." It is true he sees in it a blasphemous 
adaptation of the Christian rite ; but this is very unlikely. 
It has been shown elsewhere 4 that many perhaps all of the 
words used in the ceremonial magic of the period are taken from 
the rituals of religions dying or extinct, and the papyrus, which 
dates somewhere about the ivth century A.B., may possibly 

1 In the Catholic Church at this period the Eucharist was celebrated, 
if we may judge from the First Apology of Justin Martyr (c. LVI), in a very 
simple manner, but apparently in the presence of all the faithful. In that 
part of the Apostolical Constitutions (Bk vm. c. 66), which is probably 
later in date than Justin, the catechumens, heterodox, and unbelievers 
are directed to be excluded before consecration (see Hatch, Hibbert 
Lectures, p. 301). It does not follow that the ceremonial was as simple 
with the Gnostics. Marcus is said by Irenaeus (Bk I. c. 6, pp. 116, 117, 
Harvey) to have made the mixture of wine and water in the cup to appear 
purple and to overflow into a larger vessel ; while similar prodigies attend 
the celebration in the Pistis Sophia and the Bruce Papyrus, for which see 
Chap. X, infra. As such thaumaturgy was intended to astonish the on- 
lookers, it is probable that the elements were displayed before the whole 
congregation. That the later form of the ritual of the Christian sacra- 
ments was taken from the Gnostics, see Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 295- 
305, and 307-309, and de Faye, Introduction d VlBt. du Gnosticisme, Paris, 
1903, pp. 106, 107. 

2 Kenyon, Greek Papyri, p. 105. Sir Frederick Kenyon questions the 
theocrasia of Serapis and Esculapius, but see Bouch6-Leclercq, Rev. Hist. 
Ed. 1902, p. 30. 

8 Revillout, Rev. flgyptol. 1880, p. 172. 

* "The Names of Demons in the Magic Papyri," P.S.B.A. 1901, 

pp- *! m- 



88 The Alexandrian Divinities [OH. 

have here preserved for us a fragment of the ritual in use in the 
Alexandrian temples. " Give him, Osiris, the cooling water " 
is the epitaph often written by the worshippers of Isis on the 
tombs of the dead 1 , and it may seem that we have here a hint 
of mystic communion with the deity brought about by the 
drinking of his emblem.. 

The resemblances between the Alexandrian and the Christian 
religion thus sketched, refer, however, merely to matters which 
are either external or superficial, or which, like the worship of 
the Virgin, the use of images and relics, and the institution of 
monachism, could be abandoned, as was the case at the German 
Reformation, without necessarily drawing with them the 
repudiation of the cardinal tenets of Christianity. That the 
Christian Church owed at her inception any of her more funda- 
mental doctrines to the Alexandrian religion is not only without 
proof, but is in the highest degree unlikely. The Apostles and 
missionaries of the Apostolic Age, living as they did in daily 
expectation of the return of their Risen Lord, had no need to 
go to an alien faith for the assertion of His divinity, of the truth 
of His resurrection, or of His power of salvation ; nor do the 
Fathers of the Ante-Nicene Church speak of Serapis and Isis 
as entitled to any peculiar reverence or as differing in any 
respect from the other gods of the heathen. Whether the 
tenets of the Alexandrian religion may not have had some 
influence on the discussions which raged round the definition 
of the Divine nature and attributes at the earlier Ecumenical 
and other Councils of the Church is another matter. The con- 
ception of the Supreme Being as a triune god was a very old 
one in Egypt, and reappeared, as we have seen, unchanged in 
the worship of Serapis, Isis, and Horus. " Thus from one god 
I became three gods," sjLjsjQsirigJn his desici^ti^ 
creation in a papyrus dated twelve years after the death of 
Alexander 2 ; and the dividing-line between the three persons 
of the Alexandrian triad is so often overstepped that it is plain 
that their more cultured worshippers at one time considered 

1 Lafaye, Cube, etc. p. 96, and inscriptions there quoted. 

2 Budge, "Papyrus of Nesi-Amsu," p. 442. 



n] The Alexandrian Divinities 89 

them as but varying forms of one godhead 1 . Hence, the 
Trinitarian formulas set out in the Creeds of Nicaea and of 
St Athanasius would be less of a novelty to those familiar with 
the Alexandrian religion than to those brought up in the un- 
compromising monotheism of the Jews. Too little is known 
of the steps by which the full assertion of the doctrine of the 
Trinity was reached for any discussion of the matter to be here 
profitable 2 . The deepest influence that the Alexandrian religion 
exercised upon the Church was probably not direct, but through 
those scattered and heretical sects which, although finally 
condemned and anathematized by her, yet ever acted as feeders 
by whom she obtained converts from among the heathen. To 
these we may now turn our attention. 

1 See "The Greek Worship of Serapis and Isis," P.S.B.A. 1914, 
pp. 93, 94. 

2 That the Trinitarian doctrine of the Creed of Nicaea evolved gradually 
will now, I suppose, be admitted by all. Mr Conybeare, Apology of A$ol- 
lonius, 1894, p. 14, probably goes too far when he says that " the doctrine 
of the Trinity in Unity " is not met with till the end of the third century. 
So Guignebert, revolution des Dogmes, Paris, 1910, pp. 293, 294, tells 
us how in his opinion the dogma followed " at some distance " the assertion 
of the Divinity of Christ. Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, Eng. ed. 
1904, ii. pp. 257, 258, seems to attribute the first formulation of the dogma 
to Tertullian who, according to him, owed something to the Gnostics. 
It is at any rate plain that neither Hermas, nor the Apologists, nor Irenaeus, 
nor Clement of Alexandria, nor Origen were in accord with later orthodoxy 
on the point. Monsignor Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church, 
Eng. ed. 1909, p. 20, puts the matter very frankly when he suggests that 
the average Christian troubled himself very little about it. c< This is the 
Christian doctrine of the Trinity," he says after defining it, " not certainly 
as it was formulated later in opposition to transient heresies, but as it 
Appeared to the general conscience of the early Christians. . . .The generality 
of Christians in the first century even in apostolic days stood here almost 
exactly at the same point as present-day Christians. Theologians knew, 
or at any rate said, far more about it." 



OHAPTEE III 

THE OBIGUST OF GNOSTICISM 

THE worship of the Alexandrian gods was in every sense a 
religion. Not only did it form a common bond between men 
and women of different rank and origin, but it had its roots 
in the idea of propitiating the spiritual world. In the belief 
of its votaries, the blessings of health, of riches, of long life, 
and of happiness in this world and the next, were the gifts of 
Serapis and Isis, which they might extend to or withhold from 
mortals as seemed to them good 1 . But now we approach 
beliefs and practices, for the most part formed into organized 
cults, which were founded on the opposite idea. Those treated 
of in this and the seven succeeding chapters all have as their 
common root the notion that it is possible instead of propitiating 
to compel the spiritual powers. If these beings, greater and 
stronger than man as they were thought to be, were once 
invoked by their real names and with the proper ceremonies, 
it was said that the benefits demanded of them would follow 
as a matter of course without regard to the state of mind of 
the applicant and without the volition of the invisible ones 
themselves entering into play. This idea appears so early in 
the history of religions that it is thought by some to be the very 
source and origin of them all. A number of able writers, of 

1 Thus an Orphic verse, preserved by a commentator on Plato, says that 
Dionysos " releases whom he wills from travail and suffering." See Abel's 
Orphica, Fr. 208, p. 237. Servius in his commentary on Virgil's First Georgic, 
after declaring that Dionysos or " Liber Pater " is identical with the Osiris 
torn in pieces by Typhon, says that he is called Liber because he liberates. 
Of. fragment and page quoted. 



OH. m] The Origin of Gnosticism 91 

whom Lord Avebtiry 1 was one of the earliest, and Dr Frazer 2 
is one of the latest examples, contend that there was a time in 
the history of mankind when man trusted entirely to his sup- 
posed powers of compulsion in his dealings with the invisible 
world, and that the attempt to propitiate it only developed 
out of this at a later period. It may be so, and the supporters 
of this theory are certainly not wrong when they go on to say 
that the same idea probably inspired those earliest attempts 
at the conquest of Nature which formed the first gropings of 
man towards natural science 3 . Up till now, however, they 
have failed to produce any instance of a people in a low state 
of culture who practise magic as this attempted compulsion 
of the spiritual world is generally called to the exclusion of 
every form of religion ; and until they do so, their thesis cannot 
be considered as established. On the contrary, all researches 
into the matter lead to the conclusion that magic generally 
begins to show itself some time after the religious beliefs of a 
people have taken an organized shape, and most prominently 
when they have passed their period of greatest activity 4 . This 
is particularly noticeable in the case of Ancient Egypt, which 
affords, as M. George Foucart has lately shown with much skill 5 , 
a far more lively and complete picture of the evolution of 
religious ideas than can be found in the beliefs of savages. Here 

1 Lubbock, Origin of Civilisation, 5th ed., pp. 332, 333, and 349. 

2 The Golden Bough, 3rd ed. pt I. vol. i. p. 226, n. 2. Of. Hubert 
and Mauss, Esquisse d'nne Th&rie generate de la Magie, Paris, 1904, p. 8. 
Goblet d'Alviella, reviewing Dr Frazer's 2nd edition, Rev. Hist. Ed. 
t. XLVHI. (July-Aug. 1903), pp. 70, 79 rebuts Ms theory. Mr E. S. 
Hartland, at the British Association's Meeting in 1906, propounded the 
view that both magic and religion were based on the conception of a 
transmissible personality or mana. Of. id. Ritual and Belief, 1914, 
pp. 49 sqq. 

3 Hubert and Mauss, op. cit. p. 7. 

4 Thus the German Reformation, which (whatever be its merits) was 
certainly accompanied by a general questioning of ideas till then considered 
the very basis of all religion, was followed by the terrible outbreak known 
as the Witch Mania of the xvith century. See Mackay, Extraordinary 
Popular Delusions, 1869, pp. 101-191. Other authorities are quoted in 
"Witchcraft in Scotland," Scottish Review, 1891, pp. 257-288. 

5 Histoire des Religions et Mdthode Comparative, Paris, 1912, pp. 21-6]. 



92 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

we see beliefs and practices, once religious in every sense of the 
term, gradually becoming stereotyped and petrified until all 
memory of their origin and reason is lost, and the religion itself 
lapses into the systematized sorcery before referred to. 

This phenomenon appears with great regularity in history ; 
and it is an observation very easily verified that the practice 
of magic generally spreads in places and times where the popular 
religion has become outworn 1 . As, moreover, enquiry shows 
us that words taken from the rituals of dead faiths play the 
chief part in all ceremonial magic 2 , we might be led to conclude 
that magic was but an unhealthy growth from, or the actual 
corruption of, religion. But if this were the case, we should 
find magicians despoiling for their charms and spells the rituals 
of cults formerly practised in their own countries only ; whereas 
it is more often from foreign faiths and languages that they 
borrow. The tendency of all peoples to look upon earlier and 
more primitive races than themselves as the depositaries of 
magical secrets is one of the best known phenomena 3 . Thus, 
in modern India, it is the aboriginal Bhils and Gonds who are 
resorted to as sorcerers by the Aryans who have supplanted 
them 4 , while the Malays seem to draw their magic almost 

1 See note 4 on p. 91, supra. Cf. also the great increase of magical 
practices which followed the attempted overthrow of religion by the 
philosophers after Alexander. 

2 Some instances, such as "hocus-pocus" (hoc est corpus mtum), are 
given in P.S.B.A. xx. (1898), p. 149. An excellent example is found in a 
spell to cause invisibility in a magic papyrus at Berlin where the magician 
is directed to say among other words anoJc peusire penta set tako " I am that 
Osiris whom Set murdered " evidently a phrase from some Egyptian 
ritual extinct centuries before the papyrus was written. See Parthey, 
Zwei griechische Zauberpapyri, 1866, p. 127, 1. 252. Cf. Erinan, "Die 
Agyptischer Beschworungen " in Agyptische Zeitschrift, 1883, p. 109, n. L 

3 Tylor, Primitive Culture, 1871, i. pp. 102-104. Cf. Crookes, Popular 
Religion and Folklore of Northern India, 1896, n. p. 283 ; Hubert and 
Mauss, op. cit. pp. 26, 27 ; A. Reville, Religion desPeuples non-civilisls, 1883, 
n. p. 173. 

4 Crookes, op. cit. n. p. 261, says that witchcraft in Northern India is at 
present almost specialized among the Dravidian, or aboriginal people of 
which fact Mr Rudyard Kipling makes great use in his charming story 
" "Letting in the Jungle." 



m] The Origin of Gnosticism 93 

entirely from the beliefs of their Arab conquerors 1 . So, too, 
in Egypt we find that the magicians of the xixth Dynasty 
made use in their spells of foreign words which seem to be 
taken from Central African languages 2 , and those of early 
Christian times use Hebrew phrases with which they must 
for the first time have become acquainted not very long before 3 . 
At the same time there are many proofs that magic is some- 
thing more than a by-product of religion. No people, however 
backward, who do not practise magic in some or other of it& 
forms, have yet been discovered ; while at the same time it 
has always persisted among those nations who consider them- 
selves the most highly civilized. Thus, we find the Mincopies 
who inhabit the Andaman Islands and are thought by some to 
be the lowest of mankind, threatening with their arrows the 
spirit that is supposed to cause tempests, and lighting fires, 
on the graves of their dead chiefs to drive him away 4 . At. 
the other end of the scale we have the story of the Scottish 
Covenanter, 

"John Scrimgeour, minister of Kinghorn, who, having a beloved 
child sick to death of the crewels, was free to expostulate with his 
Maker with such impatience of displeasure, and complaining so 
bitterly, that at length it was said unto Mm, that he was heard for 
that time, but that he was requested to use no such boldness in time 
coming" : 

and a similar story is told of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the 

1 W. W. Skeat, Malay Magic, 1900, pp. 533 sqq. 

2 Chabas, Le Papyrus Magique Harris, 1860, pp. 151, 162 sq. Erman, 
Life in Ancient Egypt, Eng. ed. p. 355, while admitting that the Egyptians, 
thought the words in question belonged to a foreign tongue, says that they 
were " pure inventions." He is certainly wrong, for some of them can be- 
identified. 

8 Leemans, Papyri Oraeci Miis. Antiq. Lugdum-Bataw ; Wessely, 
Oriechische Zauberpapyn^s von Paris und London, and Neue OriechiscJie 
Zauberpapyri, Wien, 1893, passim. Cf. Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the 
British Museum, p. 62. So in mediaeval magic, the words in the spells, 
unintelligible to the magician are generally Greek. See Reginald Scot* 
Discovery of Witchcraft (1651), p. 168. 

* Reville, Rel des Peuples non-civilised, n. p. 164. 



94 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

Jesuits 1 . It seems then that magic is so inextricably intertwined 
with religion that the history of one of them cannot be effectually 
separated from that of the other, and neither of them can be 
assigned any priority in time. This does not mean, however, 
that they are connected in origin, and it is probable that the 
late Sir Alfred Lyall was right when he said that magic and 
religion are in their essence antagonistic and correspond to two 
opposing tendencies of the human mind 2 . The same tendencies 
lead one man to ask for what he wants while another will prefer 
to take it by force, and it is even possible that the same alter- 
native of choice is sometimes manifested in the lower animals 3 . 
Now it is evident that in the practice of cults where the idea of 
the compulsion of the invisible powers is prominent, the essential 
factor will be the knowledge of the proper means to be adopted 
to attain the end sought. But this does not at once strike the 
observer, because at first sight these appear to be the same as 
those used in the cults which rest on the idea of propitiation. 
Prayers and sacrifices indeed appear in magical quite as often 
as in the case of propitiatory rites, but the reason of them is 
entirely different. Prayer in a religion could any such be 
found entirely free from all admixture of magic or compulsion, 
would be based on the attempt to move the pity of the divinity 
invoked for the miserable and abased state of the suppliant, or 
by some other means. A striking example of this can be found 
in the Assyrian prayers from the palace of Assur-bani-pal, 
which might be, as the rubric informs us, made to any god 4 . 
Says the suppliant : 

1 Scott in the Heart of Midlothian quotes the first story, I think, from 
Peter Walker, but I have not been able to find the passage. For Ignatius 
Loyola, see Bdhmer, Les Jtsuites, French ed. 1910, p. 10. Of. Alpharjdry, 
R.H.R. 1911, p. 110. 

2 Asiatic Studies, 1882, p. 77. 

3 E.g. well-fed dogs who worry sheep, and cats who steal fish and other 
delicacies rather than have them given to them. The actions of the 
animals show in both cases that they know that what they are doing is 
displeasing to their owners. 

4 Sayce, Qifford Lectures, pp. 420 sqq. For these penitential psalms 
generally, see Jastrow, The Religion of Babylonia, and Assyria, Boston, 
1898, chap. xvm. 



nij The Origin of Gnosticism 95 

" my god iny sins are many, my transgressions are great. 
I sought for help, and none took my Land. 
I wept, and none stood by my side ; 
I cried aloud, and there was none that heard me. 
I am in trouble and hiding, and dare not look up. 
To my god, the merciful one, I turn myself, I utter my prayer. 

The feet of my goddess I kiss and water with tears 

Lord, cast not away thy servant,. . ." 

The same spirit may be noticed in the early religions of the 
Greeks, although here the worshipper uses, as his means of 
propitiation, flattery rather than entreaty, as when the Achilles 
of the Iliad tries to move Zeus by an enumeration of his different 
titles, addressing him as " Father Zeus, that rulest from Ida, 
most glorious, most great 1 ," and Athena is appealed to by 
Nestor in the Odyssey as " Daughter of Zeus, driver of the spoil, 
the maiden of Triton 2 " and so on. As, however, magical ideas 
come to the front, we find these prayers giving way to others 
containing neither appeals for mercy nor flattery, but merely 
long strings of names and attributes, all designed to show an 
acquaintance with the antecedents and supposed natural 
disposition of the divinity addressed, and inspired by the fear 
that the one name which might exert a compelling effect upon 
his answer might accidentally have been omitted 3 . So, too, 
the sacrifices, which in early times were chosen on the sole 
principle of giving to the god what was best and costliest, came 
later to be regulated by the supposed knowledge of what was 
especially appropriate to him for reasons based on sympathetic 
magic or the association of ideas. Thus, swine were sacrificed 
to Demeter, he-goats to Dionysos, cattle and horses to Poseidon, 
and rams to Heracles 4 , instead of the animals, chosen only for 
their youth and beauty and with or without gilded horns, that 

1 IL m. 11. 280 $qq. (Lang, Leaf, and Myers trans, p. 57). 

2 Odyss. in. 11. 373 sqq. (Butcher and Lang trans, p. 43). 

8 According to Maspero, t. lUgyptoL i. p. 163, this was always the case 
in Egypt, at least in historic times. " Prayer," -he says, " was a formula of 
which the terms had an imperative value, and the exact enunciation of which 
obliged the god to concede what was asked of him." 

4 Maury, Religions de la Grtoe Antique, n. pp. 97 sqq. 



96 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

we read about in the Iliad and Odyssey 1 . Clearly such dis- 
tinctions necessitate a much closer knowledge of the divine 
nature than where the answer to prayer or sacrifice depends 
merely on the benevolence of the deity. 

It is also evident that such ideas will give rise to curiosity 
with regard to the nature and history of the gods, to their 
relations with one another, and to the extent and division of 
their rule over Nature, which would hardly affect those who 
think that all events depend simply upon the nod of the super- 
human powers 2 . Hence it is evident that one of the first con- 
sequences of a large admixture of magic in a religion will be a 
great increase of myths and legends in which the actions of the 
gods will be recounted with more or less authority, and some 
observed natural phenomenon will be pointed to as evidence of 
the truth of the stories narrated 3 . Moreover, the means by 
which the consequence of any voluntary or involuntary trans- 
gression of the supposed commands of the gods can be averted 
will be eagerly sought after, and these, whether they take the 
form of purifications, lustrations, or other expiatory rites, will 
all be strictly magical in character, and will generally consist 
in the more or less detailed representation of some episode in 
their history, on the well-known principle of magic that any 
desired effect can be produced by imitating it 4 . In all these 
cases it is knowledge and not conduct which is required, and thus 
it is that gnosticism or a belief in the importance of acquaintance 
with the divine world, its motives, and the influences to which 
it is subject, enters into religion. Then it comes about that man 
begins to trouble himself about the origin of the universe and 
its end, the cause of his own appearance upon the earth, and the 
position that he occupies in the scale of being. Hence theo- 
gonies or tales relating how the gods came into existence, and 

1 II. x. L 292 ; Odyss. xi. 1. 30, and where before quoted. 

2 Perhaps it is to this last view that we should attribute the well- 
known indifference of the Semitic peoples to mythology and science. 

3 E.g. the Rainbow in Genesis ix. 12-16. Erman, in his History of 
Egyptian Rdigion, p. 31, points out that Egyptian mythology is found 
only in magical books. 

4 Frazer, Golden Bough* 3rd ed. pt i. vol. I. p. 52, 



m] The Origin of Gnosticism 97 

their kinship to one another, cosmogonies or accounts of the 
creation of the world, and apocalypses or stories professing to 
reveal the lot of man after death and the fate to which our 
universe is destined, take shape to an extent unknown to religions 
which remain merely or chiefly propitiatory. 

There is, however, another and a less sublime kind of know- 
ledge which is everywhere associated with the appearance of 
gnosticism. This is the knowledge of ceremonies and formulas, 
of acts to be done and of words to be said, which are thought 
to exercise a compelling effect on the supra-sensible world, 
and which we may class together under the generic name of 
ceremonial magic. Our acquaintance with these at the period 
under discussion has lately been much enlarged by the deci- 
pherment and publication of the so-called Magic Papyri found 
for the most part in Egypt and now scattered throughout the 
principal museums of Europe 1 . These turn out on investigation 
to be the manuals or handbooks of professional sorcerers or 
magicians, and to range in date from the mrd century before 
to the ivth or vth after Christ. They contain, for the most part 
without any order or coherence, details of the different cere- 
monies used for the personal aggrandizement of the user, for 
gaining the love of women and (conversely) for putting hate 
between a man and his wife ; for healing disease and casting 
out devils ; for causing dreams, discovering thieves, and gaining 
knowledge of the thoughts of men and of things past and to 
come ; and for obtaining, by other than direct means, success 
in athletic competitions. In others, we find directions for 
evoking gods or spirits who may thus be bound to the service; 
of the magician, for raising the dead for necromantic purposes^ 
and for the destruction of enemies, mingled with technical 
recipes for making ink and for the compounding of drugs. A 
feature common to nearly all these charms is their illustration 
by certain rougtly- drawn pictures and formulas which seem at 
first to be mere strings of letters without sense. 

A few specimens of these charms may help to make this 

1 The principal collections of these are indicated in note 3 on p. 93, 
supra. Cf. " The Names of Demons in the Magic Papyri," P.S.B.A. 1901 , 
L. 7 



98 The Origin of Gnosticism [OIL 

, description clearer. In a papyrus now in the British. Museum 
which is said from the writing to date from the ivth century A.ix 1 , 
we find the following charms for obtaining an oracular response 
in a dream : 

" Take of the inner leaves of the laurel and of virgin earth and 
wormwood seeds flour and of the herb cynocephalium (and I have 
heard from a certain man of Heracleopolis [now Ahnas el-Medineh] 

that he takes of the leaves of an olive-tree newly sprouted) 

It is carried by a virgin boy ground up with the materials afore- 
said and the white of an ibis' egg is mixed with the whole 
compound. There must also be an image of Hermes clad in the 
chlamys, and the moon must be rising in the sign of Aries or 
Leo or Sagittarius. Now let Hermes hold the herald's wand, and 
do thou write the spell on hieratic paper. And take a goose's 
windpipe, as I also learned from the Heracleopolite, and insert 
it into the figure so as to be able to blow into it. When you 
wish for an oracular answer, write the spell and the matter in 
hand, and having cut a hair from your head, wrap it up in the 
paper and tie it with a Phoenician knot, and put it at the feet 
of the caduceus, or, as some say, place it upon it. Let the figure 
be in a shrine of limewood, and when you wish for an oracular 
answer place the shrine with the god at your head, and make 
invocation, offering frankincense on an altar and some earth 
from a place where there is growing corn, and one lump of sal 
ammoniac. Let this be placed at your head and lie down to sleep 
after first saying this, but giving no answer to anyone who may 
address you: 

** Hermes, lord of the world, inner circle of the moon 
Bound and square, originator of the words of the tongue 
Persuading to justice, wearer of the chlamys, with winged sandals 
Rolling an ethereal course under the lower parts of the earth 

. Guide of spirits, greatest eye of the sun 
Author of all manner of speech, rejoicing with lights 
Those mortals whose life being finished are under the lower parts 
of the earth. 

1 Kenyon, OL Pap. in Brit. Mus. p. 77. This is the date of the MS. 
The spells themselves are probably much older. 



m] The Origin of Gnosticism 99 

Thou art called the foreknower of destinies, and the divine vision 
Sending oracles both by day and by night. 
Thou dost heal all the ills of mortals with thy medicines. 
Come hither, blessed one, greatest son of perfect memory 
Appear propitious in thy own shape, and send a propitious form 
That by the excellence of thy divining art I, a hallowed man, may 

receive what I need. 
Lord grant my prayer, appear and grant me a true oracle ! 

" Make the adjuration at the risings of the sun and moon. 
" (The inscription to be written oft the paper wrappings of the figure.) 

" Huesemigadon, Ortho BauM, nod o^re soire soire 
Kanthara, ErescJichigal, $an7cist$, dodekakistft " etc. 

In this charm we have nearly all the typical elements of 
the magic of the period. The windpipe of a goose or other 
long-necked animal was, we learn from Hippolytus, inserted 
into the hollow head of the metal statue of the god, in order 
that the priest might use it as a speaking tube, and thus cause 
the statue to give forth oracular responses in a hollow voice 1 . 
Hence its use would be thought particularly appropriate when 
an oracle was sought, although in. circumstances where it would 
be ineffective for purposes of deceit. The fragment of a hymn, 
in hexameter verse to a god whom it addresses as Hermes is 
doubtless of great antiquity and taken from the ritual of some 
half-Greek, half-Oriental worship such as we may imagine to 
have been paid to the Cabiri, in which a god identified by 
the Greeks with their own Hermes was particularly honoured. 
The words of the spell to be written on the paper are by no means 
the mere gibberish they seem, although they have been, so 
corrupted that it is almost impossible to recognise even the 
language in which they are written. The word Huesemigaddn 
is, however, an epithet or name of Pluto the ruler of Hades, 

1 Philosophumena, Bk iv. c. 28. Hippolytus is probably wrong in 
thinking this a conscious imposture. The magician, like his clients, does 
not connect cause and effect in such cases. Sir Alfred Lyall told Lord 
Avebury that he had often seen Indian sorcerers openly mixing croton 
oil with the ink in which their charms were written so as to produce 
a purgative effect when the ink was washed off and swallowed. See 
Lubbock, Origin of Civilization, p. 24. 

72 



100 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

and occurs in that connection, as has been shown elsewhere, 
in many of these magic spells 1 . The Orthd BauW which follows 
it is generally found in the same context and seems to cover 
the name of that Baubo who plays a prominent part in the 
Mysteries of Eleusis and appears to have been confused in later 
times with Persephone, the spouse of Pluto 2 . Ereshchigal 
[Eres-ki-gal], again, is a word borrowed from the first or 
Sumerian inhabitants of Babylonia, and means in Sumerian 
" the Lady of the great (i.e. the nether) world," being a title 
frequently used for Allat the goddess of hell, who appears in 
the very old story of the Descent of Ishtar and is the Baby- 
lonian counterpart of Persephone 3 . Why she should have 
been called dodekakiste or the 12th cannot now be said ; but it 
is possible that we have here a relic of the curious Babylonian 
habit of giving numbers as well as names to the gods, or rather 
of identifying certain numbers with certain divinities 4 . On 
the whole, therefore, it may be judged that the words of the spell 
once formed part of the ritual of a Sumerian worship long since 
forgotten and that they travelled across Western Asia and were 
translated as far as might be into Greek, when that language 
became the common tongue of the civilized world after Alex- 
ander's conquests. 

This may be taken for a spell having its origin in, or at any 
rate depending for its efficacy upon, the relics of some Western 

1 P.S.B.A. xxn. (1900), pp. 121 sqq. An explanation of the name is 
attempted by Giraud, OpMtae, Paris, 1884, p. 91, n. 5, 

2 Daremberg and Saglio, Diet, des Antiq. s.v. Baubo. The name Ortho 
perhaps suggests that of the very ancient goddess later called Artemis 
Orthia, whose original name seems to have been Orthia only. Of. M. S. 
Thompson's paper " The Asiatic or Winged Artemis " in J.H.S. vol. xxxx. 
(1909), pp. 286 sqq., esp. p. 307. 

3 P.8.B.A. xxn. (1900), p. 121, and see Griffith and Thompson, Demotic 
Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden, p. 61 and note. 

4 Probably, however, it refers to the number of letters in the name in 
some more or less fantastic spelling or cryptogram. When Hippolytus 
speaks of the Demiurge laldabaoth as " a fiery God, a fourth number "" 
(PMlosophumena> Bk v. c. 7, p. 153, Cruice), there can be little doubt that 
he is referring to the Tetragrammaton or four-lettered name of Jehovah* 
Cf. the "hundred-lettered" name of Typhon, p. 104, infra. 



in] The Origin of Gnosticism 101 

Asiatic faith. The following taken from another papyrus now 
in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris shows acquaintance 
with the Egyptian religion probably through the Alexandrian 
or Isiacist form of it described in Chapter II and is perhaps 
a more salient example of the compulsive element common to 
all magic, but particularly associated with the Egyptian magi- 
cians. It is given in the shape of a letter purporting to be 
addressed by a certain Nephotes to the Pharaoh Psamtik whom 
the Greeks called Psammetichos, and who managed, as has been 
said above, to drive out the Ethiopians and to rule Egypt by the 
help of Greek mercenaries. There is no reason to suppose that 
this attribution is anything more than a charlatanic attempt to 
assign to it a respectable origin ; but it is probable from certain 
indications that it was really taken from an earlier hieratic 
or demotic MS. of pre-Christian times. It has been published 
by Dr Karl Wessely of Vienna 1 and is written in Greek characters 
of apparently the mrd century A.D. 

" Nephotes to Psammetichos king of Egypt, the ever living, 
greeting. Since the great god [Serapis ?] has restored to thee an 
eternal kingdom, and Nature has made thee an excellent adept, and 
I am also willing to show forth to thee the love of art which is mine 
I have sent to thee this ceremony, a holy rite made perfect with all 
ease of working, which having tested, you will be amazed at the 
unexpected nature of this arrangement. You will see -with your 
own eyes in the bowl in what day or night you will and in what 
place you will. You will see the god in the water, receiving tie word 
from the god in what verses you will. [It will reach also ?] the 
world-ruler and if you ask a question of him he will speak even of 
all the other things you seek. [A description of the ointment to be 
used doubtless once followed, but has been omitted in the Paris MS. 2 ] 

1 QriecMsche Za^erpapyri von Paris und London, pp. 24-26. 

2 The use of ointment for magical purposes is well known, and it was 
the incautious use of an ointment of this kind which changed Lucius, the 
hero of Apuleius' romance, into an ass. The use of ointments which had 
the property of translating the user to the Witches' Sabbath frequently 
occurs in the witch-trials of the Kenaissanee, and it has been suggested 
that drugs producing hallucinations were thus applied. The word Kowf) 
often found in these spells seems to point to some ointment or preparation 
used in all the magic ceremonies described. 



102 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

Having thus anointed yourself and having put together before the 
rising of the sun in this form (?) what things you will, when the 
third day of the moon has come, go with the mystagogue upon the 
roof of the house, and spread upon the earth a clean linen cloth, 
and having crowned yourself with black ivy at the 5th hour after 
noon, lie down naked on the linen cloth, and order him [the mysta- 
gogue] to bind your eyes with a bandage of black linen ; and having 
laid yourself down like a corpse [or, on your back ?], close your eyes, 
making the sign of consecration towards the sun with these words : 
" mighty Typhon of the sceptre on high, sceptred ruler, God of 
Gods* King AberamentMu 1 , hill shaker, bringer of thunder, 
hurricane, who lightens by night, hot-natured one, rock shaker, 
destroyer of wells, dasher of waves, who disturbs the deep with 
movement. lo erMt autauim&ni. I am he who with thee has 
uprooted the whole inhabited world and seeks out the great Osiris 
who brought thee chains. I am he who with thee fights on the side 
of the gods (some say against the gods). I am he who has shut up 
the twin sides of heaven, and has lulled to sleep the invisible dragon, 
and who has established the sea [and ?] the red springs of rivers. 
Until thou shall no longer be lord of this dominion, I am thy soldier, 
I was conquered [and hurled] headlong by the gods. I was thrown 
down by [their] wrath in vain [or, because of the void]. Awake ! 
I come as a suppliant, I come as thy friend, and thou wilt not cast 
me out, earth-caster. King of the gods, aemonaeharotherree- 
tMrabeanetmea?. Be strong, I entreat ! Grant me this grace that, 
when I shall command one of the gods themselves to come to my 
incantations, I may see them coming quickly ! Name basanaptatow 
eaptou mno phaesmd paptoumdnoph aesimd trauapti peuchr 9 trauara 
ptoumdph, mouraianchoi^chapJiapta moursaaramei. lad aththaraui- 
mQnoker <boroptoum@th attaui m&ni charchara ptoumai lalapsa trauei 



1 Aber-amenti : " Lord (lit. Bull) or Conqueror of Amenti," the Egyp- 
tian Hades. The name is of frequent occurrence in all these spells. Jesus, 
in one of the later documents of the Pistis Sophia, is called Aberamenthd* 
in circumstances that would make the title peculiarly appropriate. 

2 A palindrome containing the same word or sentence written both 
forwards and backwards. The phrase here given (aemonaebardth) is 
probably Hebrew, which the scribe may have known was written the 
reverse way to most European languages. It is noteworthy that a mistake 
in transcription is made when the phrase is written backwards. 



m] The Origin of Gnosticism 10S 

trauei mamopJiorloula 1 aeSio iou o$6a eai aedioi iao a&i ai iao 2 . On 
your repeating this three times, there will be this sign of the alliance 3 . 
But you having the soul of a magician will be prepared. Do not 
alarm yourself, for a sea-hawk hovering downwards will strike with 
his wings upon your body 4 . And do thou having stood upon thy 
feet clothe thyself in white garments, and in an earthen censer 
scatter drops of frankincense speaking thus : ' I exist in thy sacred 
form. I am strong in thy sacred name. I have lighted upon the 
flowing-forth of thy good things, Lord, G-od of Gods, king 
demon. Atthouin thouthoui tauanti laoaptato' Having done this > 
you may descend like a god, and will command the [order ?] 5 of 
Nature through this complete arrangement of autoptic [i.e. clair- 
voyant] lecanomancy. It is also a way of compelling the dead to 
become visible. For when you wish to enquire concerning [any] 
events, yoii must take a brazen jar or dish or pan, whichever you 
will, and fill it with water, which if you are invoking the celestial 
gods must be living [Qy. running or sparkling ?] ; but, if the terres- 
trial divinities, from the sea ; and if Osiris or Sarapis, from the 
river [Nile ?] ; and, if the dead, from a well. Take the vessel upon 
your knees, pour upon it oil made from unripe olives, then bending 
over the vessel repeat the following invocation and invoke what god 
you will and an answer will be given to you and he will speak to you 
concerning all things. But if and when he shall have spoken, dismiss 



1 This sentence was probably once Egyptian from the frequent recur- 
rence of p and t as the initial letters of words. They are the masculine and 
feminine forms of the definite article in Coptic. 

2 These " boneless strings of vowels,'* as C. W. King calls them in his 
Gnostics and their Eemains, 1887, p. 320, are thought by him to cover 
the name of Jehovah. Another theory is that they are a musical 
notation giving the tone in which the spell is to be pronounced. 

3 StWaem. The text gives the most usual meaning of the word : but 
it may here mean something like the " materialization " spoken of by 
spiritualists. 

4 The word used (TrXacr/za) properly means image. But no image or 
idol has been mentioned. It is curious that in the Mithraic mysteries, we 
hear of the initiates, apparently during the reception of a candidate, 
" striking [him ?] with birds' wings." Of. the text attributed (doubtfully) 
to St Augustine in Cumont, Textes et Movmments relatifs aux Myst&res 
de Milhra, Bruxelles, 1896, t. n. p. 8. 

5 Some word like olKovopia seems to have been omitted by the scribe. 



104 The Origin of Gnosticism [OIL 

him with the dismissal which you will wonder at, using the same 
speech. 

" Speech to be said over the vessel. Amoun auantau la/imoutau 
riptou mantaui imantau lantou laptoumi anchomach araptoumi. 
Hither, such and such a god ! Be visible to me this very day and do 
not appal my eyes. Hither to me such and such a god ! giving ear 
to my race [?]. For this is what anchor anchor achachach ptoumi 
chancho charachdch chaptoume* choraharachoch aptoumi mfohochaptou 
charach ptou chancho cJiarachd ptenachocheu, a name written in a 
hundred letters, wishes and commands. And do not thou, most 
mighty king, forget the magicians among us ; because this is the 
earliest name of Typhon, at which tremble the earth, the abyss, 
Hades, heaven, the sun, fc the moon, the place of the stars and the 
whole phenomenal universe. When this name is spoken, it carries 
along with its force gods and demons. It is the hundred-lettered 
name, the same name as last written. And when thou hast uttered 
it, the god or the dead person who hears it will appear to thee and will 
answer concerning the things you ask. And when you have learned 
all things, dismiss the god only with the strong name, the one of the 
hundred letters, saying c Begone, Lord, for thus wills and commands 
the great god ! ' Say the name and he will depart. 
Jp mighty king, be kept to thjjraeU^ 
'iiSJ^^ this is the phylactery which you should 

wear. It should be arranged on a silver plate. Write the same 
name with a brazen pen and wear it attached with a strip of ass's 
skin 1 ." 

The purpose of the charm just given is, as will be seen, 
to produce apparitions in a bowl containing liquid after the 
fashion still common in the near East 2 . It amply bears out 
the remark of lamblichus that the Egyptian magicians, differing 
therein from the Chaldaean, we|LJU2JS^^ 
tojjlusa&^^ many other instances of this can 

1 Because the ass was considered a Typhonic animal. 

2 The form of hypnotism known as crystal-gazing. A full description 
is given in Lane's Modern Egyptians, 1896, pp. 276 sqq. Of. ''Divination 
in the xvnth Century," National Review, 1899, pp. 93-104, for its practice 
in England. 

8 See the letter of Porphyry to Anebo quoting Chaeremon. That this 
practice was peculiar to the Egyptian magicians is stated by lamblichus, 



in] The Origin of Gnosticism 105 

"be found in other passages of the magic papyri. But it should 
be noticed that in this case the magician is dealing with a power 
thought to be hostile alike to man and to the beneficent gods. 
Typhon, who is, as Plutarch tells us, the Greek equivalent of 
the Egyptian Set, was looked upon in Hellenistic times as essen- 
tially a power of darkness and evil, who fights against the gods 
friendly to man with the idea of reducing their ordered world 
to chaos. Yet the magician avows himself on his side, and 
even speaks of his name as being able to compel the heavenly 
gods, to whom he must therefore be superior. lamblichus tries 
to explain this, and to refine away the obvious meaning of such 
spells, but their existence certainly justifies the accusation of 
trafficking with devils brought by the early Christian Fathers 
against the practisers of magic. 

Another charm may be quoted for the purpose of showing 
the acquaintance, superficial though it was, with the religions 
of all nations in the Hellenistic world and the indifference with 
regard to them which the practice of magic necessitated. It 
appears in the papyrus in the British Museum last quoted from 
and is directed to be spoken over " the lamp " which plays so 
great a part in all magical processes 1 . Of its real or supposed 
author, Alleius Craeonius, nothing is known : 

" A spell of Alleius Craeonius spoken over the lamp. OchmcvrmacM, 
the nourai chr$millon sleeping with eyes open, nia, lad equal-num- 
bered 2 soumpsSnis siasias, lad who shakes the whole inhabited world, 
come hither unto me and give answer concerning the work [i.e. the 

de My sterns, Bk iv. c. 7. A good instance is given by Maspero, " Sur deux 
Tabellae Devotionis" in $t. HigyptoL 1893, t. n. p. 297, where a magician 
threatens, if his prayer be not granted, to go down into the secret places 
of Osiris and destroy his shroud. 

1 Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the British Museum, pp. 79-81. 

2 Or isopsephic, i.e. composed of letters having an equal numerical 
value. One of the many forms of juggling with words and letters current 
in the early Christian centuries. The " number of the beast " in Revelation 
xiii. 18, where, as is now generally admitted, 666 covers the name of Nero 
Caesar which has that numerical value in Hebrew, is the most familiar 
instance. Other instances can be found in the Epistle of Barnabas, c. 9, 
Hilgenfeld, N.T. extra Oanonem receptum, Lips. 1884, and Hippolytus, 
Philosophumma, Bk vi. c. 48, p. 318, Cruice. 



106 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

matter in hand] Tcotofh pJwuphnoun nouebou$ in tlie place prepared 
for thy reception [?]. Take an inscription 1 with, on the obverse 
Sarapis seated holding the royal sceptre of Egypt and upon the 
sceptre an ibis. On the reverse of the stone, carve the name and 
shut it up and keep it for use. Take the ring in your left hand, 
and a branch of olive and laurel in your right, shaking it over the 
lamp 2 , at the same time uttering the spell seven times. And, having 
put it (the ring) upon the Idaean finger 3 of your left hand, facing 
and turning inwards [Qy. away from the door of the chamber ?] 
and having fastened the stone to your left ear, lie down to sleep 
returning no answer to any who may speak to you : 

" ' I invoke thee who created the earth and the rocks [lit. the 
bones] and all flesh and spirit and established the sea, and shakes 
the heavens and did divide the light from the darkness, the great 
ordering mind, who disposes all, the everlasting eye, Demon of 
Demons, God of Gods, the Lord of Spirits, the unwandering Jk>n. 
lao ouei [Jehovah ?] hearken unto my voice. I invoke thee the 
ruler of the gods, high-thundering Zeus, king Zeus Adonai, Lord 
Jehovah [?]. I am he who invokes thee in the Syrian tongue as the 
great god Zaalar ipJipJiou 4 * and do thou not disregard the sound in, 
Hebrew ablanathanalba 5 abrasilda. 3Tor I am silihachoouch lailam 
Uasaloth lao ieo nebuth sabiothar both arbatk iao laoth Sabaoth patour 
zagourt Baruch adonai eloai iabraam* larbarauo nausiph, lofty- 
minded, everliving, having the diadem of the whole ordered world, 
siep& saktiet& of life (twice) spM nousi (twice) sietJio (twice). GMhe- 
tMnirinch 6$a$$ol ao$ Iao asial SarapMso eihmourdsini sem lau lou 



1 The context shows that a scarab set in a ring is indicated. 

2 A rude drawing representing the magician in this attitude often 
appears in the margin of papyri such as that quoted in the text. See Wessely, 
Gfriech. Zauberp. p. 118. 

3 Doubtless the index, because the Idaean Dactyli were said to be the 
first of men. 

4 This seems to be a corruption of some name like Baal-zephon. The 
confusion of f for /3 in these papyri is very common. 

5 A Hebrew name meaning " Thou art our father." It was thought 
especially valuable because it could be read either way. 

6 Of these words, laoth Sabaoth is " Jehovah of hosts " ; patoure zagoure, 
"who openeth and shutteth" (cf. Revelation i. 8); Baruch adonai eloai 
idbraam, "Blessed be the Lord God of Abraham." All are fairly good 
Hebrew not very much corrupted. 



in] The Origin of Gnosticism 107 

" This spell loosens chains, blinds, brings dreams, causes favours, 
and may be used for any purposes you wish." 

In this spell, we have Zeus and Yahweh associated with 
Serapis in the apparent belief that all three were the same god. 
Although the magician parades his learning by using the name 
of one of the Syrian Baals, and it is possible that some of the 
unintelligible words of the invocation may be much corrupted 
Egyptian, he is evidently well acquainted with Hebrew, and 
one of the phrases used seems to be taken from some Hebrew 
ritual. It is hardly likely that he would have done this unless 
he were himself of Jewish blood ; and we have therefore the 
fact that a Jewish magician was content to address his national 
god as Zeus and to make use of a " graven image ' ? of him under 
the figure of the G-raeco-Egyptian Serapis in direct contravention 
of the most stringent clauses in the Law of Moses. A more 
striking instance of the way in which magicians of the time 
borrowed from all religions could hardly be imagined. 

The uncertain date of the charms under discussion prevent 
any very cogent argument as to their authorship being drawn 
from them ; but there are other grounds for supposing that the 
use of magic was never so wide-spread as in the last three 
centuries before and the first three centuries after the birth of 
Christ, and that this was mainly due to the influx of Orientals 
into the West. One of the indirect effects of Alexander's con- 
quests was, by substituting Greek kings for the native rulers who 
had till then governed the countries lying round the Nile and 
the Euphrates, to break up the priestly colleges there established, 
and thus to set free a great quantity of the lower class of priests 
and temple-servants who seem to have wandered through the 
Hellenistic world, selling their knowledge of curious arts, and 
seeking from the credulity of their fellows the toilless livelihood 
that they had till then enjoyed at the expense of the state. 
The names given to the most famous of these charlatans in the 
early Roman Empire Petosiris, Nechepso, Astrampsuchos 1 , 

1 Astrampsuchos appears, oddly enough, as the name of one of the 
celestial guardians of a heaven in one of the documents of the Bodleian 
Bruce Papyrus which is described in Chap. X, infra. See Amelineau, Le 



108 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

and Ostanes 1 are in themselves sufficient to show their origin; 
and " Chaldaicus " passed into the common language of the time 
as the recognized expression for the professional exponent of 
curious arts. Even in the time of Sulla there seems to have 
been no lack of persons who, if not magicians, were at all events 
professional diviners capable of interpreting the Dictator's 
dreams 2 , and the writers of the Augustan age allude frequently 
to magic, such as that taught by the papyri just quoted, as 
being generally the pursuit of foreigners. The Thessalian 
magicians are as celebrated in the Roman times which Apuleius 
describes as in those of Theocritus. The Canidia or G-ratidia 
of Horace had also a Thessalian who assisted her in her incan- 
tations 3 . But these, like the Chaldaean and Egyptian sor- 
cerers just mentioned, were at the head of their profession, 
and in many cases made large sums out of the sale of their 
services. The taste for magic of the poorer classes, slaves, and 
freedmen, was catered for by the crowd of itinerant magicians, 
among whom the Jews (and Jewesses) seem to have been the 
most numerous, who used to hang about the Circus Maximus 4 . 
Eenan is doubtless perfectly right when he says that never 
were the Mathematici, the Ohaldaei, and the G-oetae of all kinds 
so abundant as in the Rome of Nero 5 . Their prevalence in the 
great cities of the eastern provinces of the Empire may be judged 
from the frequency of their mention in the New Testament 6 . 

It would, of course, be very easy to consider all such practices 
as the result of deliberate and conscious imposture. This is 

Papyrus Gnostique Bruce, Paris, p. 109, who transcribes it Etrempsuchos, 
while Schmidt (Koptisch-gnostische JSchriften, Leipzig, 1905, Bd. I. p. 345) 
writes Strempsuchos. Hippolytus gives the name as that of one of the 
Powers worshipped by the Peratae, v. Philosophumena, Bk v. c. 14, 
p. 196, Cruice. 

1 M. Maspero contends that this name is a corruption of an epithet of 
Thoth. See $t. Hgyptol. v. p. 259. 

2 See Plutarch, Sulla, passim, especially cc. ix. xxvrn. and xxxvir. 
from which last it appears that he consulted " the Chaldaeans." 

3 Horace, Epode, v. 

4 Juvenal, SaL vi. 

5 Renan, L'Ant&hrist, Paris, 1873, p. 28, n. 4, for authorities. 

6 Acts xiii 8 ; ibid. xix. 13-19. Cf. Renan, op. cit. p. 421. 



m] The Origin of Gnosticism 109 

the course taken by Hippolytus in the PhilosopJiumena, in which 
the heresiologist bishop gives a description of the tricks of the 
conjurors of the nird century accompanied by rationalistic 
explanations which sometimes make a greater demand on the 
credulity of the readers than the wonders narrated 1 . These 
tricks he accuses the leaders of the Gnostics of his time of learning 
and imitating, and the accusation is therefore plainly dictated 
by the theological habit of attempting by any means to discredit 
the morals of those who dissent from the writer's own religious 
opinions 2 . But a study of the magic papyri themselves by no 
means supports this theory of conscious imposture. The spells 
therein given were evidently written for the use of a professional 
magician, and seem to have been in constant employment. Many 
of them bear after them the note written in the hand of the scribe 
that he has tested them and found them efficacious. The pains, 
too, which the author takes to give variations of the process re- 
commended in them as for example in the quotations from a 
" man of Heracleopolis " in the first of the spells given above 
all show that he had a more or less honest belief in the efficacy 
of the spells he is transcribing. The recording in the same 
papyri of what would be now called " trade secrets " such as 
recipes for the manufacture of ink all point the same way, and 
go to confirm the view tKat the magicians who made use of them, 
although willing to sell their supposed powers over the super- 
natural world for money, yet believed that they really possessed 
them. 

This is the more likely to be true because many of the 
phenomena which these spells are intended to produce are what 
would now be called hypnotic. The gods and demons invoked 
are supposed to appear sometimes in dreams, but more generally 
to a virgin boy gazing fixedly either at a lamp or at the shining 



1 Book iv. c. 4, passim, especially the device for making sheep cut off 
their own heads by rubbing their necks against a sword, or for producing 
an earthquake by burning upon coals the dung of an ichneumon mixed 
with magnetic ore (pp. 99, 111, Craice). Tertullian, de Praesvript. c, 43* 
accuses the Gnostics of frequenting magicians and astrologers, 

2 PUloaopfwmew, Bk iv. c. 15, pp. 112, 113, Cruice. 



110 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

surface of a liquid. This is, of course, the form of " crystal- 
gazing" or divination by the ink-pool still used throughout 
the East, a graphic description of which is given in Lane's 
Modern Egyptians 1 . In this case as in the charms for the healing 
of disease especially of epilepsy and other nervous maladies 
given in the same papyri, the active agent seems to be the 
power of suggestion, consciously or unconsciously exercised 
by the operator or magician. A full but popular explanation 
of these phenomena from the standpoint of modern science 
will.be found in the lectures on " Hypnotisme et Spiritisme " 
delivered at Geneva by Dr ]mile Yung in 1890 2 , while the subject 
has been treated more learnedly and at greater length by a great 
number of writers, among whom may be specially mentioned 
M. Pierre Janet 3 , the successor and continuator of the researches 
of the celebrated Charcot at the Salpetriere. 

The influence that such practices exercised upon the 
development of the post-Christian sects or schools generally 
classed together under the name of Gnostic is not very clearly 
defined. It may, indeed, be said that the great diffusion of 
the magical rites that took place during the centuries immedi- 
ately preceding, as in those immediately following, the birth 
of Christ, predisposed men's minds to the search for a cosmogony 
or theory of the universe which should account for its evolution 
as part of an orderly and well-devised system rather than as the 
capricious and, as it were, incoherent creation of the gods. 
That some such force was at work may be gathered from the 
fact that magical beliefs and practices seem to have crept into 
the religion of the whole civilized world at this period. But 
that the schools calling themselves Gnostic owed their develop- 
ment directly or exclusively to them is an idea that must be 
repudiated, Hippolytus, as has been said, does, indeed, make 
some such charge, but only in general terms and without any 
evidence in its support. When later he goes through the sects 
seriatim, he only reiterates it in the cases of Simon Magus, of 

1 Paisley, 1896, pp. 277-284. . 

2 Hypnotisme et Spiritisme, Geneve, 1890, passim. 

3 DAutomatisme Psychologique, Paris, 1899, passim. 



m] The Origin of Gnosticism 111 

his successor Menander, and of Carpocrates of Antioch ; and 
it is probable from the context that in all these cases he is only 
referring to what seemed to him the superstitious attention 
paid by the " heretics " in question to the externals of worship, 
such as the use of pictures and statues, lights and incense, which 
seem in many cases to have been- borrowed directly from 
paganism. 

This attention to the details of ritual, however, did in itself 
contain the germ of a danger to the survival of any organized 
cult in which it was present in excess, which was to receive 
full illustration in the later forms of Egyptian Gnosticism 
properly so-called. As will be shown in its place, the seed of 
Gnosticism fell in Egypt upon soil encumbered with the debris 
of many older faiths which had long since passed into the stage 
of decay. Nor could the earnestness or the philosophic insight 
of the great Gnostics of Hadrian's time, who started their pro- 
paganda from Alexandria, contend for long with the inherited 
preconceptions of a degraded and stubborn peasantry who had 
learned for millennia to regard all religion as sorcery. Here 
Gnosticism degenerated quickly into magic of the least enlight- 
ened and basest kind, and thus lost all right to be considered 
in any sense a religion 1 . The case was different in other parts of 
the Roman Empire, where a better intellectual equipment and 
the practical syncretism or fusion of worships offered more 
favourable ground for the development of new faiths not 
appealing to the members of one nationality only. 

That this idea of Gnosticism or of the importance of know- 
ledge were it only the knowledge of charms and spells in 
dealing with the spiritual and invisible world was bound to 
play a prominent part in the evolution of the world-religions 
which Alexander's conquests had rendered possible is therefore 
evident. Some writers have gone further and have declared 
that Christianity itself may be " only an episode though a 
very important episode in the history of Gnosticism 2 ." But 

1 This is treated more fully in Chap. X, infra. 

2 Of, " Cerinthus and the Gnostics " in the London Quarterly, Oct. 1886, 
p. 132. 



112 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

to say this, as will presently be shown, is to go too far, and 
Christianity, although she obtained many converts from those 
Gnostic sects with which the Chnrch of the Apostolic and 
sub- Apostolic ages found itself in competition 1 , yet proved in 
the long run to be the most bitter enemy of Gnosticism. From 
the first, the Catholic Church seems to have recognized that the 
ideas which lay at the root of Gnosticism to which word I 
have ventured here to give a meaning more extended than that 
which it connotes in heresiological writers were opposed to 
religion altogether ; and if allowed to triumph would have had 
their end in the development of a science, which, if not absolutely 
atheistic, would at least reduce the necessary action of the 
spiritual world upon this to the vanishing point 2 . It would 
indeed be quite possible to argue that such ideas must always 
appear when a people of inferior culture, but of vigorous intellect, 
come into frequent contact for the first time with a material 
civilization higher than their own. It is sufficient for the 
present purpose to have shown that they were widely spread 
during the centuries which immediately preceded the appear- 
ance of Christianity, and that they count for something in the 
evolution of the many heretical sects who came to trouble most 
seriously the peace of the Catholic Church in the early centuries 
of our era. The same causes, however, must have been at 
work some time before, and it is impossible to explain some of 
the features of Gnosticism in its more extended sense without 
going back to an early period of Greek history. For it was in 
Greece that the Orphic teaching first appeared, and it is to this 
that most of the post- Christian Gnostic heresies or sects attri- 
buted, not untruly, their own origin. 

Connected in practice with, yet entirely different in origin 

1 Thus Epiphanius had been a Nicolaitan, St Ambrose of Milan a 
Valentinian, and St Augustine a Manichaean before joining the Catholic 
Church. 

2 So Hippolytus objects not only to the astrology of his time, but to- 
the arithmetical calculations on which it was professedly based. The 
estimates attributed to Archimedes of the relative distances of the 
earth from the sun, moon and planets are marked out by him for special 
condemnation. Of. Philosophumena, Bk rv. c. 1, pp. 67-76, Oruice. 



in] The Origin of Gnosticism 113 

from, this magic was the astrology or star-lore which after the 
conquest of the Euphrates valley by the Persians began to 
make its way westwards. It would seem that its birthplace 
was the plains of Chaldaea, where the clear air brings the starry 
expanse of the sky nearer, as it were, to the observer than in 
the denser and more cloudy atmosphere of Europe, while the 
absence of rising ground not only enables him to take in the 
whole heaven at a glance, but gives him a more lively idea of the 
importance of the heavenly bodies. There the careful and 
patient observation of the Sumerian priests at a period which 
was certainly earlier than Sargon of Akkad (i.e. 2750 B.C.) 
established the fact that certain groups of stars appeared and 
disappeared at regular intervals, that others moved more swiftly 
than their fellows, and that the places of both with reference to 
the apparent path of the sun varied in a way which corre- 
sponded with the recurrence of the seasons. Primitive man, 
however, does not distinguish between post hoc and propter hoc, 
or rather he assumes unhesitatingly that, if any natural pheno- 
menon occurs with anything like regularity after another, the 
first is the cause of the second. Hence the swifter stars soon 
came to be clothed in the minds of the early astronomers with 
attributes varying with the phenomena of which they were 
supposed to be the cause. Thus, the planet or " wandering " 
star which we call Jupiter came to be known as the " god of 
good winds," the Hyades and Pleiades were looked upon as 
the bringers of rain, and the stars whose appearance ushered 
in the cold and darkness of winter were considered as hostile 
to man 1 . As time progressed, however, these observations 
accumulated largely, one would think, because of the im- 
perishable material on which they were recorded and it then, 
began to be perceived that the movement of the heavenly bodies 
were not due to their individual caprice or will, but were dictated 
by an inexorable and unchangeable law. In the drawing of 
this conclusion, the patient and logical mind of the Mongoloid 
inhabitants of Sumer, ever mindful at once of the past and the 
future of the race, no doubt played its full part. 

1 P. Jensen, Die Koamologie der Babyloni&r, Strassburg, 1890, pp. 140 
agg. and especially p. 295. 

L. 8 



114 The Origin of Gnosticism [OK 

The effect of this change in the mental attitude of man 
towards the universe was to introduce an entirely new con- 
ception into religion. At first the Babylonians, pushing, as 
man generally does, the application of their last discovery 
further than the facts would warrant, declared that all events 
happened in a regular and prearranged order ; and that man 
could therefore predict the happening of any event directly 
he knew its place in the series. Thus in the " astrological " 
tablets preserved in the palace of Assur-banipal at Nineveh, 
some of which certainly go back to the reign of Sargon of 
Akkad 1 , we read : 

" In the month of Nisan 2nd day, Venus appeared at sunrise. 
There will be distress in the land An eclipse happening on 
the 15th day., the king of Dilmun is slain, and someone seizes his 

throne An eclipse happening on the 15th day of the month 

Ab the king dies, and rains descend from heaven, and floods fill 

the canals An eclipse happening on the 20th day, the king 

of the Hittites in person seizes the throne.. . .For the 5th month 
an eclipse on the 14th day portends rains and the flooding of canals. 
The crops will be good, and king will send peace to king. An eclipse 
on the 15th day portends destructive war. The land will be filled 
with corpses. An eclipse on the 16th day indicates that pregnant 
women will be happily delivered of their offspring. An eclipse 
on the 20th day portends that lions will cause terror and that reptiles 
will appear ; an eclipse on the 21st day that destruction will overtake 
the riches of the sea 2 ." 

1 See the tablets made for this king and published by Sir Henry Rawlin- 
son in the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, vol. in. Many of these 
are translated by Sayce in " The Astronomy and Astrology of the Babylo- 
nians," Trans. Soc. Bill. Arch. vol. rn. (1874), pp. 145-339. I have taken the 
lowest date for Sargon, on the authority of Mr King, Chronicles of Marly 
Babylonian Kings, 1907, i. p. 17, although the well-known text of Nabonidus 
would make him a thousand years earlier. The origin of Babylonian 
.astronomy is discussed by Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, 
chap. xxm. The immense antiquity attributed to the Babylonian 
observations by the classical authorities quoted in Sayce's paper may be 
considerably reduced if we substitute lunar for solar years ; yet there seems 
little doubt that the star worship which arose from them went back to the 
" oldest period of Babylonia." Cf. Sayce, Gifford Lectures, 1902, p. 480. 

2 Jastrow, op. cit. pp. 365 sqq* 



in] The Origin of Gnosticism 115 

These events are evidently predicted from, a knowledge of 
what happened immediately after the occurrence of former 
eclipses and other celestial phenomena, and it is perhaps cha- 
racteristic of the lot of man that most of them are unfavourable 
and that the disasters greatly outnumber the good things. But 
it is plain that as time went on, the observers of the stars would 
begin to perceive that even such unusual celestial phenomena 
as eclipses occurred at intervals which, although long compared 
with the lifetime of a man, could yet be estimated, and that the 
element of chance or caprice could therefore be in great measure 
eliminated from their calculation. Then came about the con- 
struction of the calendar, and the formation of tables extending 
over a long series of years, by which the recurrence of eclipses 
and the like could be predicted a long time in advance. All this 
tended to the formation of different ideas of the laws which, it 
a^as now seen, governed man's life, and the shape which these 
jaow took were equally erroneous, although at first sight more 
rational than those held by the first observers. 

This new idea was in effect that system of " correspondences " 
which occupied a prominent place in nearly all religious systems 
from the time of Assyria's apogee to the triumph of Christianity, 
and which through the mediaeval Cabala may be said to retain 
to the present day some shadow of its former power over the 
minds of the superstitious. This was the notion that the earth 
in effect is only a copy of the heavens, and that the events which 
happen here below are nothing but a copy of those which are 
taking place above 1 . If any great catastrophe such as the 
fall of an empire like that of Assyria or the sudden death of a 
man distinguished above his fellows like Alexander occurs f it 
is because of some conjunction or meeting of hostile stars ; 

1 Among modem German archaeologists Winckler and Jeremias have 
pushed the effect of this " astral theory " of the universe beyond all limits. 
Their position is at once exposed and refuted by Rogers in The Religion of 
Babylonia and Assyria, 1908, pp. 212 to end. Yet such a view of the 
universe as is given in the text was undoubtedly held by many during the 
.six centuries here treated of, and can be seen as it were underlying most of 
the religions of the time. That it had its origin in Babylonia seems most 
probable. See Cumont, Astrology and Religion among the Greeks and 
Jtomans, 1912, pp. 1-26, and authorities there quoted. 

82 



116 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

f 

and if some great and unexpected benefit such, as universal 
peace or an abundant harvest smiles upon mankind, it is because 
those stars most generally favourable to him have recovered 
temporary sway. The result was a sort of mapping-out of the 
heavens into regions corresponding to those of the earth, and 
the assigning of a terrestrial " sphere of influence " to each 1 . 
But as the predictions made from these alone would have been 
too speedily and too evidently falsified in most cases by the 
march of events, it became necessary to attribute a predominant 
influence to the planets, whose swifter and more irregular move- 
ments introduced new factors into the situation. These planets 
were decided to be seven in number, Uranus and Neptune 
not having yet been discovered, and the Sun and Moon being 
included in the list because they were thought like the others 
to move round the earth. Hence all terrestrial things were 
assumed to be divided into seven categories corresponding to 
the seven planets, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Sun, 
Jupiter, and Saturn, and to be in an especial way under the 
influence of the heavenly bodies of which they were the earthly 
representatives. 

Into the details of the so-called science of astrology thus 
founded, it is not our purpose to enter. To do so would occupy 
a greater space than is at our disposal, and would involve 
besides the discussion of a great many documents only just 
beginning to come to light, and the exact meaning of which is 
still uncertain 2 . But it may be mentioned here that astrology 
entirely changed its character when it came into contact with 
the dawning science of mathematics, which is perhaps the most 
enduring monument which bears witness to the fertility and 
inventiveness of the Greek mind. So soon as the observations 
of the Babylonians were placed at their disposal, the Greek 

1 Cumont (work last quoted), p. 18. The idea appears plainly enough 
in astrological works like Ptolemy's Tetrdbiblos. It was not confined to 
Babylonia, for the Egyptians thought the earthly Nile corresponded to a 
heavenly one. 

2 Cumont's Catalogus Oodicum Astrologorum Oraecorum of which 
10 volumes have been published will be of great use in this respect See also- 
KrolTs Vetiii Valentis AntTiologiarum Libri, 1908. 



in] The Origin of Gnosticism 117 

mathematicians set to work in real earnest to discover the laws 
of the universe and established the science of astronomy pretty 
much on the basis on which it stands at the present day. The 
discovery of the Metonic cycle, of the trigonometrical method 
of measuring the celestial sphere, and of the precession of the 
equinoxes all followed in succession, and the prediction of 
eclipses, conjunctions of stars, and other celestial phenomena 
which had before been more or less a matter of guesswork, now 
became a matter of calculation presenting no mystery to anyone 
versed in mathematics. The heavens were mapped out, the 
stars catalogued, and tables were produced which enabled the 
place of any particular -star to be found at a given moment 
without the actual inspection of the heavens 1 . 

The result of this improved state of things was not long in 
reacting both upon religion, and its congener, magic. On the 
first of these, the effect was much the same as that produced 
by the discoveries of Copernicus in the xvith century and those 
of Darwin in the xixth. "We do not know enough of the history 
of thought at the time to be aware if the Greek additions to the 
ascertained laws of Nature aroused the same resentment in 
priestly minds as did those of the Prussian and the English 
philosophers ; but it is evident that if they did so, the quarrel 
was speedily made up. Every religion in the G-raeco-Roman 
world which sought the popular favour after the discoveries 
of Hipparchus, took note of the seven planetary spheres which 
the geocentric theory of the universe supposed to surround 
the earth, and even those known before his time, like Zoro- 
.astrianism and Judaism, hastened to adopt the same view of 
the universe, and to modify the details of their teaching to accord 
with it. The seven stoles of Isis are as significant in this respect 
-as the seven-stepped ladder or the seven altars in the mysteries 
of Mithras, while the seven Amshaspands of the Avesta and the 
attention paid to the seven days of the week by the Jews go to 
show how even the most firmly held national traditions had to 
bow before it. As for magic, the sevenfold division of things 

1 Cumont, Astrology and, Eel. pp. 12, 13. Of. Theon of Alexandria's 
Commentary on thelllrd book of the Almagest (Abb6 Halma's ed.), 1813* 
t. r. p. 1. 



118 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. 

which implied that each planet had its own special metal, 
precious stone, animal, and plant, placed at the disposal oi the 
magicians an entirely new mode of compulsion which lent itself 
to endless combinations ; while, for the same reason, special 
conjurations were supposed, as we have seen, only to exercise 
their full influence under certain positions of the stars. Perhaps 
the climax of this state of things is reached in one of the Gnostic 
documents described later, where the salvation of Christian souls 
in the next world is said to be determined by the entry of one of 
the beneficent planets into one or other of the signs of the 
Zodiac 1 . 

One of the most important results of this impulse was the 
sudden importance thus given to the worship of the material sun > 
which henceforth forms the centre of adoration in all non- 
Christian religions. As we have seen, in the worship of Isis, 
the newly-made initiate was made to personify the daystar 
in the public, as no doubt he had done in the secret, ceremonies 
of the cult. All the post- Alexandrian legends of the gods were 
turned the same way, and Serapis, Mithras, Attis were all 
identified with the sun, whom philosophers like Pliny and 
Macrobius declared to be the one supreme god concealed behind 
the innumerable lesser deities of the Graeco-Roman pantheon 2 . 
Even the Christians could not long hold out against the flood* 
and the marks of the compromise to which the Catholic Church 
came in the matter may perhaps be seen in the coincidence 
of the Lord's Day with Sunday and the Church's adoption of 
the 25th day of December, the birthday of the Unconquered 
Sun-God, as the anniversary of the birth of (Jhrist 3 . It is 
certainly by no accident that the emperors whose reigns im- 
mediately preceded the establishment of Christianity all turned 
towards the worship of the sun-god who was looked upon aa 

1 In the Pistis Sophia (for which see Chapter X, infra) the --soul of a 
sinless man who has not found the mysteries has to wait until the planets 
Jupiter and Venus come into a certain aspect with the sun, " Saturn and 
Mars being behind them." It is then reincarnated and wins for itself life 
eternal, pp. 387, 389 (Copt.). 

2 Pliny, N.H. Bk II. c. 4. Macrobius, Saturnalia, Bk I. cc. 18-23. 

3 Goblet d'Alviella in Eev. Hist. Eel LXV. (May-June, 1912), p. 381. 



m] The Origin of Gnosticism 119 

the peculiar divinity of the family to which Constantino be- 
longed 1 . 

To Gnosticism, whether we use the word in the sense in 
which it has been used in this chapter, or in its more restricted 
connotation as the generic name of the earlier heresies which 
afflicted the nascent Church, the development of astrology came 
as a source of new life. Henceforth to the knowledge of the 
history of the personal dispositions and of the designs of the 
be jbdded that of the laws governing the movements 



ofjthe stars. Moreover, the newUheory introduced into Gnosti- 
cism an element which had hitherto been foreign to it, which 
was the idea of destiny or of predetermined fate 2 . If all things, 
as the astrologers said, happened in a certain regular order of 
which the movements of the stars were at once the cause and the 
symbol, it follows that their course is determined beforehand, 
and may possibly be capable of being ascertained by man. 
Hence came in all the ideas as to the predestination of certain 
souls to happiness and of others to misery both in this world and 
the next, which play such an important part in the religions of 
the centuries under consideration, and the influence of which 
is by no means extinct at the present day. It is true that, as 
M. Cumont has recently pointed out, man is never rigidly true 
to his beliefs, and has generally invented some compromise by 
which either the favour of the gods or his own conduct is 
supposed to free him from the worst effects of a predetermined 
fate. Such compromises appear furtively here and there in 
Christian Gnosticism, but without sufficient prominence to take 
away the effect of the general notion that man's fate in the 
next world is determined before his birth in this. 

The general effect of these considerations is, it is thought, 
that the Gnosticism which came to trouble the peace of the 
Christian Church during its infancy and adolescence had its 

1 Aurelian and Diocletian each instituted a worship of the sun-god, 
the deity of the second Mavian family. 

2 Cumont, Astrology and Eel. pp. 28, 29. He is probably right when 
he points out that irregular phenomena like comets and shooting stars 
gave a loophole for the opponents of a rigid predestinaristoism of which 
they were not slow to avail themselves. 



120 The Origin of Gnosticism [OH. nr 

roots, first in the decay of the earlier faith, which showed itself 
in the popular taste for cosmogonical and other myths, until 
then wholly or partly absent from the ideas of the more civilized 
nations of the Persian Empire. On the top of this, came the 
great spread of ceremonial magic which seems to have followed 
the first introduction of something like upright and just govern- 
ment by the Aryan conquerors of the Bast ; and then the idea 
of a universe ruled not by the unchecked will of capricious 
gods, but by the regular and ordered movement of the stars. 
The predestinarian view of the fate of the individual which 
naturally follows from this last conception, as has just been said, 
was subject to exceptions and compromises, but yet appears 
as a kind of background or framework to all the religions 
(orthodox Christianity excepted) which came into prominence 
during the six centuries to which our survey is limited. But 
before dealing with those hitherto unnoticed, it is necessary 
that we should glance at those pre-Christian forms of Gnosti- 
cism, the earliest of which was perhaps that which appeared 
simultaneously in most parts of the Greek world at the begin- 
ning of the vth century before Christ and is generally known 
as OrphisrtL * 



CHAPTEE IV 

PRE-CHRISTIAN GNOSTICS : THE ORPHICI 

ALL scholars seem now agreed that the legendary Orpheus 
never really existed 1 , and that the many verses and poems 
attributed to him were the work of various hands, one of the 
earliest of their authors being Onomacritos of Athens, who fled 
with the Pisistratids to the court of Xerxes at Susa in the first 
decade of the vth century B.C. 2 Yet there is little doubb that 
the peculiar myths alluded to in these poems were known at 
an early date in Crete, whence they probably found their way 
into Athens with Epimenides, the Cretan wizard or wise man 
who was sent for to purify the city from the guilt incurred by 
the murder of Cylon 3 . This event evidently marks a turning 
on the part of the Greeks towards purifications and other 
magical rites unknown in Homer's time 4 ; but the tendency, 

1 Lobeck in his Aglaophamus, Konigsberg, 1829, vol. i. pp. 233-1104, 
makes this clear. It was also the opinion of Aristotle according to Cicero 
{de Nat. Deor. Bk i. c. 38). Other authorities are collected by Purser in 
his article " Orphica" in Smith's Diet, of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1890, 
vol. ii. who quotes with approval Preler's remark that Orpheus was "eine 
litterarische Collectivperson." See also Paul Monceaux in Daremberg and 
Saglio's Diet, des Antiq. s.v. Orphica. 

2 Herodotus, Bk vn. c. 6. Tatian, adv. Graecos, c. XLI. ; Clem. Alex. 
Strom. Bk i. c. 21 ; Sext. Emp. Pyrrh. Hypotyp. rn. p. 115B. Cf. Purser, 
art. cit. 

3 K. 0. Miiller, Hist, of the Literature of Ancient Greece, Eng. ed. vol. I. 
pp. 308, 309 ; and authorities quoted by 0. Kern, de Orphei, Epimenidis 
Pherecydis Theogoniis, Berlin, 1888, p. 6. 

4 The first mention of such rites is said to have been made by Arctinus 
of Miletus in his JEtMopis, where he describes Ulysses as purifying Achilles 
for the murder of Thersites. See Grote's History of Greece, 4th ed. vol. I. 
pp. 23, 24. 



122 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [OH. 

to whomever due in the first instance, undoubtedly received a 
great impulse from the break-up of the Pythagorean school in 
Italy about 500 B.C. 1 This event, which in its effects may be 
compared to the dispersion of the priestly corporations of 
Babylon and Egypt which followed Alexander's conquests, 
sent wandering a great number of speculative philosophers 
trained in the formation of associations for political and other 
purposes, and they probably joined forces with a previously 
existing Orphic sect, nearly all the early Orphic poems being 
ascribed, with more or less likelihood, to Pythagoreans 2 . There 
are certain features in these poems which, if we met with them 
after the reform of the Zoroastrian religion by the Sassanian 
kings, we should certainly attribute to Persian influence ; but 
this can hardly be done so long as we remain ignorant of what 
the Persian religion was in the time of the Achaemenides. The 
most probable account of the matter is that the religious 
teaching attributed to Orpheus was of Asiatic and particularly 
of Phrygian provenance, that it had long been current in Crete 
and the other islands of the Mediterranean, that a part of it 
came into Greece through Thrace in the time of the Pisistratids, 
and that it was finally put into an organized and consistent 
shape by those Pythagorean philosophers who made their way 
back to Greece after the overthrow of their political power in 
Magna Graecia 3 . It found in Pindar a warm adherent, and was 
well known to and spoken of with reverence by the three great 



1 K. 0. Miiller, op. cit. i. pp. 310, 311. 

2 Clem, Alex. Strom. Bk i. c. 21. 

3 The search for its original home seems hopeless at present. It might 
easily be connected with Babylonian beliefs, and the Orphic Dionysos has 
too many features in common with Tammuz, the lover of Ishtar, for the 
resemblance to be entirely accidental. But other elements in the story, such 
as the mundane egg, are found in the Vedas, and may point to an Indian 
origin. The discovery a few years ago at Boghaz Keui in Cilicia of inscrip- 
tions showing that the Vedic gods were worshipped in Asia Minor at least 
as early as 1270 B.C., makes it very difficult to say whether the Vedic gods 
may not have reached India from Asia Minor or vice versa. In this case, 
it is possible that Onomacritos may have learned some of the legends at 
the Court of the Great King at Susa. 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 123 

tragic poets Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides 1 . Its greatest 
influence, however, was probably exerted through the Eleusinian 
and other mysteries which it captured and transformed. It 
continued to dominate them from before the time of Herodotus 
down to the prohibition of these secret rites by the Christian 
emperors, and Orpheus was thus said by everyone to be their 
founder 2 . 

The whole of this teaching centred round the legend of 
Dionysos who is described by Herodotus as the youngest that 
is to say the last-adopted of the great gods of Greece 3 . This 
Orphic Dionysos was the Cretan form of the god worshipped 
all round the Mediterranean, who was always represented in 
human form, and as suffering a violent death and then rising 
again from the dead. But to this nucleus, the Orphic poets 
added at different times and by degrees a great quantity of 
other myths which together formed a complete body of doctrine 
setting forth the origin of the world, and of man, and his life 
after death. First, they said, existed Chronos or Time " who 
grows not old," from whom sprang Aether and the formless 
Chaos. From these was formed a silver egg which, bursting 
in due time, disclosed Eros, or Phanes the first born, a shining 
god, with wings upon his shoulders, at once male and female, and 
having within himself the seeds of all creatures. Phanes creates 
the Sun and Moon and also Night, and from Night begets 
Uranos and Gaea (Heaven and Earth). These two give birth 
to the Titans, among whom is Kronos, who emasculates his 
father Uranos and succeeds to Ms throne. He is in turn 
deposed by Zeus, who swallows Phanes, and thus becomes the 
father of gods and men 4 . 

1 Pindar, Isthm, vx. i. 3 ; Aeschyl. Sisyphus Dra/petes, fr. 242 of Didofc ; 
Sophocles, Antigone, 11. 1121 sqq. ; Euripides, EJmus, 11. 942 sqq, Cf, 
Dollinger, Jud. und Heid. Eng. ed. vol. I. p. 259. 

2 Demosthenes, adv. Aristog. i. p. 773. Cf. Maury, Eel de la Ghrtoe, n, 
p. 320 ; Daremberg and Saglio, Diet, des Antiq. s.v. OrpMca and Eleusinia, 
for other authorities. 

8 Herodotus, Bk n. cc. 145, 146. 

4 This is the " Theogony of the Rhapsodists," which seems to have been 
the most popular of all the Orphic theogonies. The different texts in which 



124 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [OH. 

This part of the Orphic story comes to us almost entirely 
from Neo-Platonic sources, and possesses several variants. It 
is so manifestly an attempt to reconcile the popular theology 
of Greece found in Homer and Hesiod with different Oriental 
ideas of the origin of the world that we might consider it to have 
been concocted in post-Christian times, were it not that Aristo- 
phanes had evidently heard about Chaos and the mundane egg, 
and its production of Eros and Night, which confused genealogy 
ie burlesques in The Birds 1 . It is probable also, as Alfred 
Maury pointed out, that this legend was first taken by the 
Orphics from the philosophers of Ionia, and especially from that 
Pherecydes of Syros who is said to have been Pythagoras' 
master 2 . Attempts have been made to derive it from Indian, 
Egyptian, Chaldaean, and even Jewish sources ; but its resem- 
blances to parallel beliefs among some or all of these nations 
are too few and sparse for any useful conclusion to be drawn from 
them. One of its most marked features is its succession of 
divine rulers of the universe, which the Orphics made use of to 
exalt their own god Dionysos to the highest rank. The story 
they told of this Dionysos was that he was originally the Phanes 
whom Zeus swallowed, but that at his second birth he became 
the offspring of Zeus by Persephone, the daughter whom Zeus 
had himself begotten on one of the earth-goddesses who is some- 
times called Rhea, sometimes Cybele, and sometimes Demeter. 
Persephone, described by the Orphics as the " especial " or 
46 single " daughter of Zeus 3 , was seduced by her father in 

It is preserved have been collected by Abel, Orphica, Lips. 1885, pp. 48-140, 
It is well summarized by Purser in Smith's Diet, of Antigr. where before 
quoted. Of. Daremberg and Saglio, s.v. Orpheus. 

1 Aristoph. Aves, 11. 691-706. 

2 Religions de la Grece, t. m. p. 310. 

3 MowoyeWa. See Orphic Hymn on p. 142, infra. Persephone has 
also Zeus for her father in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, L 396. The 
epithet cannot imply that she was his only daughter, as he had other 
daughters among the Homeric gods, such as Athena and Aphrodite, but 
rather that she was " unique," or one of a kind. The mistaking of the word 
Movoyevrjs for fiovoytwiyros by Christian and Jewish writers has led to 
much confusion ; and Renan (L'jSglise Clvr&ienne, Paris, 1879, p. 200, n. 2) 
notes that George the Syncellus calls Bar Coziba, the Jewish Messiah, 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the OrpMci 125 

the form of a serpent, and in due course brought to light 
Dionysos, sometimes called Zagreus or " the Hunter." This. 
god, who had the horns of a bull 1 , became the darling of his 
father, who destined him for his successor and allowed him, 
while yet a child, to sit on his throne and to wield the thunder- 
bolts 2 . But the Titans, the monstrous sons of Earth, either 
spurred on by jealousy at the child being given the sovereignty 
of the world, or incited thereto by Hera, laid a plot for his- 
destruction. Beguiling him with childish toys such as a top, 
a hoop, and a mirror, they stole upon him unawares with 
blackened faces, and, in spite of his struggles and his transfor- 
mation into many shapes, tore him limb from limb, cooked his- 
several members in a cauldron, and ate them. The heart, 
however, was saved from them by Pallas Athene, who bore it 
to Zeus, who swallowed it, and it thus passed into the Theban 
Dionysos, son of Zeus and Semele, who was in turn Zagreus 
re-born. Zeus also blasted the Titans with his lightning., 
while he ordered Apollo to collect the uneaten members of 
the little god and to bury them at Delphi. A variant or perhaps 
a continuation of the story makes Demeter, having, as the earth 
goddess, received the members of the little god, put them to- 
gether and revivify them, and join herself in marriage with the 
resuscitated corpse, whence the infant lacchos is born 3 . 

Movoyevrjs. See the story of the begettal of Persephone which Mauryy, 
op. cit. m. pp. 321, 322, quotes from Clement of Alexandria and Arnobius. 
Both authors derive from it the name of Brimo given to Demeter in the* 
Mysteries. Ci Chap. VIII, mfra. 

1 Orphic Hymn xxx in Abel's Orphica, where he is called " Mrst-be- 
gotten, of a double nature, thrice-born, Bacchic king, Hunter, Ineffable One, 
Hidden One, two horned, and of double form." Cf . his epithet " bull-faced " 
in Orphic Hymn XLV. So Clement of Alexandria quotes a verse from some 
unnamed poet that " the bull has begotten a serpent, the serpent a bull," 1 
Protrept. c. n. 

2 As in the statue at Megalopolis in Arcadia described by Pausanias, 
Bk vm. c. 31, where Polycleitos portrayed the young god with a cup and 
a thyrsos, besides wearing cothurni, but with the eagle and the name of" 
Zeus 3>iXtoy. Ael. Aristides, in Dionysum, says that Dionysos is Zeus 
himself, a doctrine which Justin Martyr, Cohort, c. xv, attributes to Orpheus.. 

3 The story with full references to authorities is given by Maury, Eel. de 
la Gr&ce Antique, t. in. pp. 342 sqq. ; Purser in Smith's Diet, of Greek an& 



126 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [OH. 

In this part of the story, also, the desire of the authors to 
fit it in with the existing mythology is manifest. At Eleusis 
from very early times there had been worshipped with mys- 
terious rites a divine couple who were known only as " the God " 
and " the Goddess 1 ." This pair were, as we may guess from an 
allusion in Hesiod, otherwise called Zeus Chthonios or the 
infernal Zeus, god of the underworld, and Demeter 2 , the ancient 
earth-goddess, who was worshipped with her lover under the 
various names of Ma, Cybele, Astarte, Ehea and Isis throughout 
Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenicia and Egypt. As the lover of the 
earth-goddess in all these cases suffered death and resurrection, 
the Orphics had to work these episodes into the history of 
their Dionysos Zagreus. But they carried the idea further than 
any of their predecessors by connecting this death and re-birth 
with the origin of man and his survival after death 3 . Man, 

Roman Antiquities, 1890, s.v. Orphica ; Cecil Smith, " Orphic Myths on Attic 
Vases," J.H.8. 1890, pp. 343-351 ; Dyer, The Gods in Greece, 1891, p. 128 ; 
Paul Monceaux in Daremberg and Saglio's Diet, des Antiq. s.v. Orphica. 
The eating of a god or other being in order to obtain possession of the 
victim's qualities is a common idea among primitive peoples, as is set forth 
at length in Frazer, Golden Bough, 3rd ed. pt v, vol. n. ch. 10. It was 
familiar to the Egyptians, as is seen in the Pyramid Texts of the vrth 
Dynasty, where the glorified King Unas is represented as chasing, catching, 
cooking, and eating the gods in the next world in order to assimilate their 
powers. See Maspero, Les Pyramides de Saqqarah, pp. 67 aqq. So in a 
magic papyrus now at Leyden, the magician threatens the god Set whom 
he is invoking, that if he is not obedient, he will speak to " the Great God " 
(Serapis ?) who will tear Set " limb from limb and give his powers to a 
mangy dog sitting on a dung-hill to eat." See Leemans, Papyri Graed, 
vol. n. pp. 18, 19. 

1 Foucart, Myst. d'fil. pp. 27, 28. 

2 Foucart, where last quoted ; Hesiod, Works and Days, 1. 465 (p. 39, 
Didot). 

3 Such ideas may, however, have been current in the religions of the 
Eastern Mediterranean long before Orphic times. Dr Budge in his book 
Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, I. p. 28, reiterates what he has 
before stated elsewhere, i.e. that Osiris was to his worshippers "the god-man, 
the first of those who rose from the dead," and that his death and resurrec- 
tion were therefore supposed to be in some way beneficial to mankind. 
This is very likely, but I know of no Egyptian text that in any way connects 
the creation of man with the death of Osiris. On the contrary, a text which 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 127 

they said, was made out of the ashes of the Titans, and was 
therefore born to sorrow, his soul being buried in his body as in 
a charnel-house 1 . ,But he also had within him a spark of the 
life of Zagreus, the infant ruler of the universe 2 , and this enables 
Mm to purify himself from the guilt of the earthborn Titans, 
and so to leave the circle of existence and cease from wickedness. 
For that the soul of man after leaving his body went, unless 
purified, to inhabit the bodies of other men and even animals, 
passing from one to the other as in a wheel or endless chain, 
was a dogma which the Orphics had taken over from the 
Pythagoreans 3 . How now was this purification to be obtained * 
The answer that the earlier Orphics gave to this question 
must have astonished the pleasure-loving and artistic Greeks. 
The true Orphic, they were told, must make his whole earthly 

Dr Budge has himself published makes men. and women to come into being 
from the tears which came forth from the eye of the god Khepera, here 
probably to be identified with Nu, the primaeval Ocean or Deep. See 
Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, vol. i. p. 299. The Zoroastrian religion, 
in the late form in which we have it in the Bundahish (see West, S.B.E. 
Oxford, 1880, Pahlavi Texts, pt i.), does indeed make man spring from the 
death of Gayomort, the First or Primaeval Man, slain by Ahriman. If we 
choose to suppose that this conception went back to the times of Zoroaster 
himself, that is to say, about. 700 B.C., Onomacritos might easily have 
found this part of the story at the Court of Susa. Cf. Bousset, Haupt- 
problems der Gnosis, Gottingen, 1907, pp. 215-223. It is significant that, 
according to Pausanias, Bk vm. c. 37, it was Onomacritos who first made 
the Titans evil powers, or as he says " contributing to the sufferings of 
Dionysos." 

1 Clement of Alexandria, Strom. Bk m. c. 3, quotes this expression from 
" Philolaos the Pythagorean." Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, Bk iv. p. 157 c 
(Teubner) from " Euxitheus the Pythagoric." It evidently went back to 
the earliest Orphic teaching reduced to writing. 

2 See Lobeck, Aglaophamus, i. p. 566, for authorities. 

^ KVK\OV r* aXXOcrai KOI ava\lfvai /ca/cor^ros". The line is attributed 
to Orpheus by Simplicius in his Commentary on Aristotle, de Caelo, n. 
p. 168 (ed. Karsten). According to Proclus, in Plat. Tim. v. 330 A, B, it 
was part of a prayer which Orphics used when being initiated in the mys- 
teries of " Demeter and Cora." The Pythagorean doctrine of transmigra- 
tion and its adoption by the Orphics are well set out by Luebbert in his 
Commentatio de Pindaro dogmatis de migratione animarum cultore, Bonn, 
1887, q.v. 



128 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Qrphiti [GEL 

life a preparation for the next. He must partake at least once 
of a mystic sacrifice, in which a living animal was, in memory 
of the fate of Zagreus, torn in pieces and eaten raw ; but there- 
after he must never again eat any food that has had life nor 
even eggs, and he must observe perfect chastity 1 , and wear- 
only linen garments even at his burial, nor must he go near a 
sepulchre. 

" We aim at a holy life, whence I am become a mystes of Idaean 
[i.e. Cretan] Zeus," says the Orphic in a surviving fragment of 
Euripides' Cretenses, " and having completed the life of night- 
wandering Zagreus and the raw flesh- devouring feasts, I uplifted 
the torches of the mountain mother, and having been purified by 
expia.tory offerings, I was hailed as Bacchus by the Curetes..,. 
But now clothed in white garments, I fly the generation of mortal s, 
and to a corpse I draw not nigh, and I shun the eating of things which 
have had life 2 ." 

The meaning of this is fairly plain and is in everything a 
great deal more magical than religious. By a well-known rule 
common to nearly all people in a low state of culture, the victim 
sacrificed to a god becomes a god himself 3 ; and, as the eating 
of the victim makes him part of the eater, it has the same effect 
on the votary as the swallowing of Phanes by Zeus had upon 
this last, the Dionysiac soul in the participant of the sacrifice 
is thereby strengthened, and he becomes so far identified with 
the god as to bear his name. Henceforth, however, he must 
have no further dealings with Titanic matter, and in particular 
must shun the corpse which represents the Titanic part of man 
without the Dionysiac, and must do nothing which can start 

1 All these prohibitions persisted, and we meet with them in nearly all 
the religions hereafter described including the Manichaean. The filiation, 
may well be direct, as such sects as the Valentinians grew up in an atmo- 
sphere of Orphic teaching. If, however, it should appear that the Orphic 
notions on this subject were derived from some Western Asiatic source, it 
is plain that the Ophites and Manichaeans may have drawn theirs from the 
same fount and independently. 

2 Euripides, Cretenses, p. 733 (Didot). The fragment is found in 
Porphyry, de Abstinentia, Bk iv. c. 19. Of. Euripides, Hippolytus, L 952. 

8 See Frazer and Maspero as quoted in note 3 p. 125, supra. 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphiti 129 

another being on " the ceaseless round of changing existences 1 ." 
If he were successful in observing these austerities to the end, 
he might hope that, when his soul was released from its prison 
house, it would be reunited to Dionysos, and rest for ever free 
from the stains of matter. This was in effect the formal teaching 
of Pythagoras with regard to the transmigration of souls, and 
depended on the view that the soul, or incorporeal part of man, 
had once formed part of the soul of the universe diffused through- 
out Nature. " I have heard," says Cicero, " that Pythagoras 
and the Pythagoreans. . .never doubted but that we possess 
minds plucked from the universal divine mind"; a phrase 
that he explains in discussing the nature of the gods by saying 
that Pythagoras ** thought there was a mind spread through 
and pervading the whole nature of things whence our minds 
are plucked 2 ." A similar doctrine of transmigration appears 
clearly in Pindar 3 , who was one of the first to give voice to the 
Orphic teaching, which his lays did much to diffuse. The 
addition that the Orphic poets made to the doctrine was doubt- 
less the attribution to Dionysos and the Eleusinian goddess 
of the task of presiding over and arranging these rebirths. 

Yet the austerities prescribed by the Orphic life, however 
fitted to a philosophic school, could hardly be practised by 
people engaged in the business of the world. It was impossible, as 
the Pythagoreans had probably found, for people to devote them- 
selves entirely to the welfare of their souls, and yet to live among 
their fellows. Hence some other means by which man could be 
assured a happy lot after death had to be devised, and there seems 

1 That this was the regular Orphic phrase is plain from the verse quoted 
above, note 3 p. 127. Of. the gold plates of Naples, p. 133, infra. 

2 Of. Luebbert, op. cit. p. v. The confusion in Cicero between animus 
and anima, or mind and soul, is curious, Cf . Olympiodorus, Comment, ad 
Plat. Phaed. as given in Fr. 225 of Abel's OrpMca (p. 245). 

3 Orpheus is mentioned in the ivth Pythian ode as the '* father of songs," 
and in fragments of the Threnoi as " the golden-sworded son of Oiagreus," 
p. 116 (Bergk). In the vrth Isthmian ode, Dionysos is made the temple- 
companion or assessor (vrdpedpos) of Demeter. The delights of the blessed 
dead are set forth in fragments of the Threnoi (see Fragment x. 1, 2, 3, 4 of 
Teubner, pp. 95, 96, Cod. Boeckh) ; their reincarnation as heroes in a frag- 
ment from the same poem ; ibid. Frag. x. 4, p. 98, Cod. Bo. 

9 



130 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphiei [OH. 

no doubt that the post-Pythagorean Orphics taught that this 
was to be found in participation in the mysteries or secret 
rites already in existence in Greece before the commencement 
of their teaching. Whether the Eleusinian Mysteries were in 
their inception anything more than the worship of the Chthonian 
or infernal deities, as the gods presiding over agriculture and 
vegetation considered as a symbol of generation and death, 
is still undecided 1 ; but there can be no doubt that under 
Orphic influence they underwent a complete change. Dionysos, 
identified with Hades or Zeus Ohthonios, begins, after the 
break-up of the Pythagorean school s to take part in them by 
the side of Demeter and Persephone, and the story of his 
mysterious birth from the goddess, and his identification as 
Zagreus with lacchos, the child-god leading the procession, 
seems from this period onwards to have been told in them 2 . 
But the mode in which the Mysteries were regarded by the 
Greeks in general materially altered after the introduction of 
the Orphic teaching, and this also can hardly be attributed to 
anything else than the direct influence of its professors. We 
are told on all sides that no religious teaching formed part of 
the Mysteries of Eleusis, and that on the contrary the initiates 
were simply shown certain scenes and objects, and heard certain 
mysterious words on which they were left to put their own 

1 The earlier idea espoused by Creuzer and others (see Guigniaut, 
Religions de PAntiquite, vol. in. passim, and especially pp. 1207, 1208) that 
the Chthonian gods were worshipped as the symbols of generation and death 
seems a good deal nearer the truth than the " Corn-spirit " theory set on 
foot by the Golden Bough that they were the gods of agriculture and vegeta- 
tion. Of course both explanations can be read into what we know of the 
Mysteries. Why these last should have been kept secret even before the 
rise of Orphism is hard to see. M. Paul Foucart's view that they came 
originally from a foreign country (according to him from Egypt) offers one 
explanation of this ; but see n. 2 p. 139, infra. 

2 So IP. Lenormant in Daremberg and Saglio's Diet, des Ant. s.v. 
Eleusinia. See, too, his article on Dionysos Zagreus in the Gazette Archdo- 
logique, 1879. So Purser in Smith's Diet, of Antiq. as last quoted (cf. 
article " Eleusinia'*). Aeschylus, Sisyphus Drapetes, frag. 242, p. 238, Didot, 
and Alcmaeonis, in Etymologicum Magnum, s.h.v. both know of Zagreus, 
and Sophocles, Antigone, 1L 1140-1154 identifies Dionysos and lacchos. 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 131 

interpretation 1 . But the Orphics discovered in them a sacra- 
mental or purifying grace which was thought to have a kind of 
magical effect on the lot alike in this life and after death of 
those who took part in them. It was enough to have seen these 
mysteries, as the poets aver 2 , for man's place in the next world 
to be changed for the better, and thus it is the knowledge thus 
obtained, and not conduct or favour, which is thought to in- 
fluence his destiny. The doctrine thus baldly stated moved 
to indignation Diogenes the Cynic, who pointed out that 
Patecion the brigand, who had been initiated, had earned for 
himself by this one act happiness after death, while Epa- 
minondas, best of patriots, by the fact that he had not been 
initiated, was condemned to be plunged in mud and to undergo 
other tortures 3 . 

The very important part in Orphic practice played by this 
belief in the magical power of initiation has lately been put 
beyond doubt by the discovery of certain inscriptions in the 
tombs of worshippers of the Orphic deities at places so far apart 
asPetelia inMagna G-raccia, Calabria, Eleutherna in Crete, Naples, 
and Rome. On palaeographic grounds their dates are said to 
range over at least three centuries, the earliest having apparently 
been made in the ivth or mrd century B.C., and the latest in the 
ist or und century of our era. They are all engraved on thin 
gold plates, are in Greek hexameter verse, and in the opinion 
of scholars are all taken from the same ritual, and therefore 
afford evidence of the permanence and fixity as well as of the 
wide spread of the Orphic teaching 4 . They contain instructions 

1 Synesius (PtoL Episcop.), Dion (Migne, Script. Gr. t. 66, pp. 1153-1156), 
says so plainly. Of. Galen, de Usu Partium (Kuhn's Medici Graeci, Claudius 
Galenus, vol. rv. pp. 702, 703), and Plutarch, de Defect. Orac. p. 422 (Moratia, 
vol. I. p. 514, Didot). 

2 Sophocles, Triptolemus (Frag. 348, Didot). Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 
1L 480 sqq. (p. 565, Didot). See also Chap. II, supra. 

3 Plutarch, de audiend. Poet. iv. 76 (Eeisk) ; Diogenes Laertius, Vit. 
PMl c. vi. 

4 They have been many times described, especially by Kaibel and 
Comparetti (for references see Monceaux in Daremberg and Saglio's Diet, 
des Antiq. s.v. Orphica). The translations in the text are by Prof. Gilbert 

92 



132 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [OH. 

to the dead as to the things to be done and avoided by him or 
her in the next world and also the formulas to be repeated to 
the powers there met with, which will have the effect of magically 
procuring for the deceased an exalted rank among its inhabitants. 
One of the earliest in date, found at Petelia and now in the 
British Museum, runs thus : 

" Thou shalt find to the left of the House of Hades a well-spring 
And by the side thereof standing a white cypress. 
To the well-spring approach not near ; 
But thou shalt find another by the Lake of Memory. 
Cold water flowing forth, and there are guardians before it. 
Say : I am a child of Earth and of Starry Heaven 1 
But my race is of Heaven (above). This you know yourselves. 
And lo ! I am parched with thirst and I perish, Give me quickly 
The cold water flowing forth from the Lake of Memory 2 . 
And of themselves they will give me to drink from the Holy Weil- 
Spring." 

Another set of plates from tombs at Eleutherna, now in the 
National Museum at Athens, is to this effect : 

* I am parched with thirst and I perish. Nay, drink of Me 
The well-spring flowing for ever on the right where the cypress is 
Who art thou ? . . . 
Whence art thou ? I am the son of Earth and of Starry Heaven," 

The magical and gnostical purport of this is plain. As in 
the Egyptian Book of the Dead, to which these plates bear a 
great resemblance, their aim was to give the deceased person 
in whose tomb the inscription was buried 3 , the knowledge of 
the infernal or subterranean regions which was to make his 
entry into them safe and profitable. That his soul or immaterial 

Murray and are taken from his Appendix to Miss Jane Harrison's Prole- 
gomena to Study of Greek Religion, 1903, q*v. 

1 The same phrase is used in the Orphic Hymn xni. with regard to 
Kronos, Abel, Orphica, p. 66. 

2 This idea reappears in one of the documents of the Pistis SopMa. 
See Chap. X, infra. 

a So Aelius Aristides (in Serapidem, p. 98) speaks of the light of the sun 
being restored by Serapis " to those whose tombs contain holy books." 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 133 

part was a part of Dionysos, the descendant of Uranos and GS 1 , 
and more directly the offspring of Demeter the earth-goddess 
by Zeus, the god of the sky, had already been shown to the dead 
on his initiation. But it was necessary that he should prove 
to the gods of death and generation that he knew this, when they 
would have no alternative but to admit him to all the privileges 
attached to his high descent and the rank he had attained in 
the scale of being by initiation. This is made plainer still by 
the statements put into the mouth of the dead by the gold 
plates from Naples, now in the Naples Museum, which read 
thus : 

" Out of the Pure I come, Pure Queen of those Below, 
And Eukles and Eubouleus 2 and other Gods and Demons ; 
For I also avow that I am of blessed race. 
And I have paid the penalty for deeds unrighteous 
Whether it is that Fate laid me low, or the Gods Immortal, 
Or [that Zeus has struck me ?] with star-flung thunderbolt 
I have flown out of the sorrowful weary Wheel ; 
I have passed with eager feet to the Circle desired ; 
I have sunk beneath the bosom of Despoena 3 , Queen of the Under- 
world 

I have passed with eager feet to [or from] the Circle desired ; 
And now I come a suppliant to Holy Persephone 
That of her grace she receive me to the seats of the Hallowed." 

Then comes Persephone's answer 
ct Happy and Blessed One, Thou shalt be God instead of Mortal," 

1 As Foucart, Culte de Dionysos, p. 34, n. 3, has pointed out, this cannot 
refer to the Titanic part of man, which he was enjoined by the Orphics to 
mortify as far as possible. There is something to be said for M. Foucart's 
view that the dead is here shown as another Osiris, son of the earth-god 
Geb and the sky-goddess Nut, It is curious that this last is always por- 
trayed on Egyptian monuments with a star-spangled body, while I know 
of no Greek representation of Uranos which connects him with the stars, 

2 " Of good counsel" A name of Dionysos, as appears from the Orphic 
Hymns given later in this chapter. 

3 A name of Demeter, Persephone, and some other Ghthonian goddesses. 
See Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae, 1. 286. It probably means merely 
"mistress." 



134 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [OH. 

while a prose formula " A kid I have fallen into milk " which 
seems to have been a password among the Orphics is written 
in the midst of the verses and appears upon this and several 
of the other plates 1 . 

In the Naples plate, we have the teaching, more or less dimly 
indicated in the quotations from the Orphic poems which occur 
in classical and patristic writers, brought to a focus. The dead 
has during his earthly life taken part in the mystic rites which 
have told him whence life comes and whither it is tending. He 
now has the right to demand from the deities who preside over 
the death and rebirth of mortals that he be relieved from the 
endless round of incarnations ; and he backs up this request 
by proof of the knowledge he possesses of their nature and his 
own origin, at the same time uttering passwords which he has 
received on his initiation. The effect of this, although out of 
reverence represented as an act of grace on the part of the 
divinities addressed, is in fact magical or automatic. The 
powers addressed perforce grant the request of the dead and he 
becomes like them a god 2 , freed from the necessity for any 
further deaths and rebirths. The same idea is traceable 
throughout the whole of the Egyptian Book of the Dead from 
which it may have been directly derived 3 , and also in other 

1 It has been suggested that this is a figure for the initiated dead 
receiving all that they wish. It should be noted, however, that in the 
Zoroastrian religion the flood of molten metal which is to burn the wicked 
is to feel to the faithful like warm milk. So N. Soderblom, La Vie Future 
d'apres la Mazddisme, Paris, 1901, p. 266, quoting the Dinkard and the 
BuTbdahish. The phrase is discussed by M. Salomon Beinach in Revue 
Archdol. 1901, n. pp. 202-213, and Cultes, Mythes et Religions, Paris, 
1909, t. n. pp. 123-134. M. Alline, in Xenia, Athens, 1912, connects it 
with the supposed Orphic idea that blessed souls inhabit the Muky Way. 

2 Perhaps not directly. There is some reason for thinking that the soul 
of the true Orphic was supposed to pass through the intermediate stages of 
hero and demon: see Hild, fitude sur les Demons, Paris, 1881, p. 144, where 
the subject is excellently treated. Cf. Pindar, Threnoi, Frag. x. 4, p. 98, 
Cod. Bo. The deification of the dead was also a Pythagorean doctrine, 
as appears in the Aurea Carmina, 1L 70, 71, ed. Gaisford. 

3 This is the suggestion of Foucart, Myst. d'fil. p. 72. That the 
Egyptian dead was supposed to become one with Osiris himself is an idea 
that appears as early as the Pyramid Texts, cf . Maspero, Les Pyramides de 



IY] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphiei 135 

religions with which it would seem the Orphic teaching can 
have had no connection 1 . But the point to remember at 
present is that it appears henceforward in all the cults or sects 
to which we have given the generic name of Gnostic 2 . 

How this idea was propagated in Greece and her colonies 
is a question over which still hangs a great deal of obscurity. 
There exist a great number of quotations from poems attributed 
to Orpheus, which were clearly the composition of the Orphic 
school, and all these are, like the gold plates, in hexameter verse. 
These, as Damascius implies, were recited by professional 
declaimers called Rhapsodists 3 at the different games and 
festivals held in honour of the gods, as were once the so-called 
Homeric Hymns and the poems of Pindar, which they perhaps 
succeeded and displaced. In this way they doubtless became 
familiar to many thousands who would otherwise never have 
heard of the Orphic teaching, and our conviction on this point 
is strengthened when we see how very numerous the festivals 
in which the Chthonian gods were celebrated really were. 
Besides Eleusis, we hear of the worship of Dionysos, Demeter 
and Persephone as infernal deities in Achaea, in the Argolid, 
in Arcadia, in Messenia, in Sparta, and in other parts of the 
Peloponnesus 4 . It also spread through Boeotia, where the 
national cult of Dionysos no doubt ensured it a good reception, 
and thence early passed into the islands of the Aegean. Crete 
had, as we have seen, practised it even before it came to 
Athens ; and Demeter and Persephone were not only worshipped 
in Sicily, but were taken to be the tutelary gods of the island. 
The Ionian colonists also took the worship of the Eleusinian 
triad with them into Asia and they were adored in parts of 



Saqqarah, passim, where the dead kings are each in turn hailed as " this 
Osiris." , 

1 Buddhism, for instance, which can hardly have reached the West 
before the death of Onomacritos. 

2 As in the Pistis Sophia,, where Jesus says to his disciples, " Know ye 
not that ye are all gods. . .", p. 247 (Copt.). 

8 For Damascius, Quaest. de primis principiis, see Abel's Orphica, Frag. 
48. Cf. as to Khapsodists, Maury, Mel de la Greet, I. pp. 240, 345, 346. 
4 See Maury, op. cit. n. pp. 370 sqq. 



136 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the OrpMci [OH. 

Asia Minor as far distant from Greece as Cyzicus 1 . At all, or 
nearly all, these places, mysteries were celebrated having more 
or less likeness to those of Eleusis, and were followed by games 
and festivals like the Eleusinia, at which the songs of the 
Rhapsodists would be heard 2 . The frequent Dionysia. or 
festivals of Dionysos, scattered all over the Greek-speaking 
world, but especially in its Northern or Balkan provinces, no 
doubt offered an even better opportunity for making known 
these poems. 

The Orphic poets, also, by no means confined their songs to 
the worship of the deities adored at Eleusis. The Thracians, 
including in that name the inhabitants of Macedonia and 
Thessaly, always had extraordinary ideas about the future life, 
and Herodotus describes how they used to gather weeping round 
the new-born child, bewailing his entry into this miserable 
world, while they rejoiced over the death of any of their fellows, 
declaring that he had thus obtained a happy deliverance from his 
troubles 3 . These, however, were the very doctrines of the 
Orphics, who declared that the body was the grave of the soul, 
and that the life of the world to come was the only one worth 
living. Hence the mythical Orpheus was said to have been a 
Thracian, and the worship of Bacchus or the Theban Dionysos 
as the god of wine to have come into Attica from Thrace by way 
of Boeotia, a theory which derives some colour from the orgiastic 
dances and ravings of the Maenads and Bacchanals, who seem 
therein to have reproduced the rites of the savage Thracians 4 . 
When the Phrygian divinities Cybele the Mother of the Gods, 
and her consort Attis were brought into Greece, the Orphics 
seized hold of their legends also, and so transformed them that 
it is now impossible for us to tell how much of them is Asiatic, 

1 Maury, op. ciL IL p. 374 

2 Such as the Mysteries of Samothrace, held in honour, according to one 
account, of Pluto, Demeter, and Persephone, together with Hermes. See 
Maury, op. cit. n. pp. 306 sqq. for authorities. It was at these mysteries 
that Philip of Macedon was said to have first seen and loved Olympias 
(Plutarch, Alexander, c. 2). 

8 Herodotus, Bk v. c. 4. 

4 See Maury, Eel de la Grece, n. p. 203, for authorities. 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 137 

and how much is the result of Orphic interpolation 1 . The same 
thing may be said of the worship of the Syrian Adonis, whose 
mystic death turned him into the spouse of Persephone, and 
enabled the Orphics to identify him with Eubuleus or the infernal 
Zeus or Dionysos, and of that of the Thracian moon-goddess 
Bendis, early worshipped in Athens, whom an Orphic verse 
preserved by Proclus declares to be Persephone herself 2 . 

The foreign god, however, in whose worship the Orphic 
doctrine is most plainly visible was Sabazius, who also seems 
originally to have come from Phrygia. He is described in an 
early Greek inscription as " Lord of all 3 " and said later to be 
the son of Cybele. The Greeks, however, quickly identified 
him with Dionysos Zagreus 4 , and an orgiastic worship of him 
penetrated into Athens some time before Alexander's conquests. 
This seems to have been well known to Aristophanes, who 
declaims in the Lysistrata against the " wantonness " of the 
Athenian women, who gave themselves up to the pursuit of 
this god and the Syrian Adonis 5 . But the associations formed 
for the worship of these divinities seem to have been recruited 
almost entirely from among the courtezans of the Piraeus and the 
trades dependent on them, and more than one of its priestesses 
were put to death for " impiety " or interference with the religion 
of the State. The low estimation in which it was generally 
held may be judged from the invective of Demosthenes against 

1 As in the Orphic Hymn to Mse given on p. 143, infra, where the 
Eleusinian Dionysos, called also Eubuleus and lacchos, is identified with 
Oybele, the Cyprian Aphrodite, and the Egyptian Isis. See, too, the Hymn 
" of the Great Mysteries " given in the PUlosophwmena of Hippolytus, 
where Dionysos is equated with Adonis, Osiris, the god of Samothrace, 
Attis, and others. See n. 1 p. 139, and Chap. VIII, infra. 

2 See last note ; Proclus, in Plat. Polit. p. 353 (Abel's Orphica, Frag. 
184). 

3 iravKoipavos. C.I.G. t. n. No. 3791 (Bo.). Cf. the Aeschylean descrip- 
tion of Zagreus as the " Highest of AH " (irawn-epTare Travrav) quoted by 
Gaisford in his notes to Etymologicwn Magnum (see Cydi Fragmenta of 
Didot, s.v. Epigoni vel Alcmaeonis). 

4 Cf. the 2a/3afte. . .&$> Ba^o? &i6vv<rov of Hymn XLvm. Abel's Orpliica. 

5 Lyswtrata, 11. 386-390. Cf. Foucart, Les Ass. Md. pp. 61-64, who 
quotes nearly all the available authorities in his notes. See also Monceaux 
in Daremberg and Saglio's Diet, des Antiq. s.v. Sabazios. 



138 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [OH. 

Ms rival Aeschines, whose mother Glaucothea was a priestess 
of Sabazius, and who had himself in his youth assisted her in 
her duties 1 : 

" When you became a man, you knew by heart the books of your 
mother and helped her to make up others ; and you nightly gave 
the initiated the nebride (fawn-skin) and baptized them and purified 
them, wiping off the clay and bran, and raising them after the 
purifications, teaching them to say ' I have shunned evil. I have 
found good.' . . . By day you led fine ihiasi (confraternities) 
through the streets crowned with leaves of fennel and poplar, 
you heading the procession and squeezing the broad-jawed serpents, 
waving them above your head while you shouted Evoe Sabo'i and 
danced Eyes Attis, Attis Eyes ; and the old women hailed you 
as leader of the dance, and chief, and chest-bearer, and sieve-bearer, 
and with such like titles ; while you received from them as your 
pay sops and twisted loaves and cakes. Who would not think him- 
self lucky with such a life ! " 

The whole of this tirade may be explained by reference to 
the Orphic teaching about Dionysos Zagreus. The fawn-skin 
or nebride was worn, as appears on thousands of vases, in the 
Dionysiac rites as in those relating to the burial of Osiris. The 
clay and bran are thought to refer to the disguise which .the 
Titans assumed when stealing upon the infant god, and the 
speech about shunning evil apparently denotes the putting away 
of the Titanic nature and the resolution in future to cultivate 
the Dionysiac soul. The serpents are explained by a custom 
peculiar to the Sabazian rites of putting a live serpent into the 
bosom of the initiate's garment and taking it out at the foot 
in memory of the shape in which Zeus begot Dionysos on his 
daughter Persephone. The mystic cry of " Evoe " is a well 
known feature of the orgiastic worship of Dionysos ; while 
" Saboi " seems to cover some name or epithet of Sabazius 2 , 
and the phrase " Hyes Attis " shows the connection with Attis, 

1 Demosthenes, de Corona, pp. 259 sgq. Of. Foucart, Les Ass. Mel p. 67, 
n. 1. 

2 In the Orphic Hymn to Hippa (Hymn XLIX. Abel's Orphica, p. 84), 
the mysteries of the " pure Sabos ? " (&yvov 2d/3ov) are alluded to in terms 
which make it possible that the name was one of the epithets of the lacchos 
of Eleusis* 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 139 

whose identity with Dionysos forms the subject of more than 
one Orphic Hymn 1 . In all this also it may be noticed that there 
is no pretence of considering conduct as influencing the destiny 
of the initiate or even of conciliating the divinity invoked. The 
whole of the rites described are entirely magical, and owe all 
their efficacy to the knowledge of the right means to be used 
to compel the spiritual world to perform the votaries' will. 
It is obvious that people with such ideas will be in no great hurry 
to extend the advantage of their discoveries to others less lucky 
than themselves and will on the contrary do much to keep them 
a secret confined to a few 2 . 

Did the Orphics, however, at any time form themselves into 
a church or brotherhood pledged to mutual support and the 
propagation of the faith ? Some writers of authority have 
thought so 3 ; but there seems to be no evidence available to 

1 In a hymn preserved for us by Hippolytus (PMlosophumena, Bk v. 
c. 1, p. 176, Cruice) the " multiform Attis," wfro has just been declared " in 
a hymn of the Great Mysteries " to be the god who is called Adonis, Osiris, 
Adam (by the Samothracians), Corybas and Pappas, is thus addressed : 
" I will sing Attis, son of Bhea, not with the sound of trumpets, nor with 
the Idaean flutes in harmony with the songs of the Curetes. But I will 
mingle with my lay Phoebus' music of lutes. Evoe Evan, since thou art 
Pan, since thou art Bacchus, since thou art the shepherd of white stars." 
In the address to Musaeus with which the collection of Orphic Hymns 
begins, the Mother of the Gods, Attis, Men, Aphrodite Urania, and Adonis 
are invoked together. See Abel's Orphica, p. 58. In Roman times Attis 
and Sabazius seem to be identified, while Adonis is often confounded with 
them. See Maury, EeL de la Ghr&ce, in. p. 102 and n. 4. 

2 This is, perhaps, the only satisfactory reason that can be assigned for 
the secrecy with which the Mysteries of Eleusis, of the Great Mother, and 
the rest were surrounded. The notion put forward by the Fathers that 
the mystic rites were kept secret because of their obscenity has little weight 
when we consider the Phallophoria and the Terms, or street statues of 
Hermes, which were publicly exhibited. The existence of secret rites 
among primitive folk like the black races of Africa and the native Austra- 
lians can be explained in the same way. 

3 Purser, ubi tit. supra, speaks of it as " an ascetic religious brotherhood," 
as did K. 0. Miiller, Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology (Eng. 
ed.), p. 318, and Litt. of Ant. Greece, I. p. 307. Dollinger, Jud. und Heid. I. 
p. 161, says truly that there is no evidence that at any time there existed 
a regularly formed association of Orphici in Greece. So Monceaux in 
Daremberg and Saglio, s.v. Orpheus. 



140 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphiei [OH. 

warrant the supposition. Although the worshippers of Cybele, 
Attis, Adonis, Dionysos, the Eleusinian deities, and Sabazius, 
were by no means averse from announcing the nature of their 
faith on their tombstones, we nowhere find any funeral inscrip- 
tions declaring the dead to have belonged to any body of 
worshippers calling themselves Orphici. A more likely theory 
is that the Orphics were banded together in the small indepen- 
dent associations known as Thiasi, Erani, or Orgeones 1 , like 
those which we have seen founded at Athens and elsewhere for 
the worship of foreign gods. It would seem probable enough ; 
but as yet all documentary evidence is entirely lacking. Records, 
generally in the shape of stelas or tablets containing the lists 
of members and the regulations of the associations, have been 
found in some numbers for the thiasi of nearly all the gods 
honoured by the Orphic poets who were not the gods of the 
Greek States ; but among them no association calling itself 
Orphic has yet been discovered. What we do know is, that in 
the days of Plato, there was a class of strolling charlatans 
called Orpheotelestae who were accustomed to haunt the doors 
of the rich with a heap of books said to have been written by 
Orpheus, out of which they offered, in exchange for money, 
to perform ceremonies of purification and initiation which they 
affirmed would purge from the recipient all trace of personal 
or inherited guilt and assure him a happy lot in the next world 2 . 
They also told fortunes, offered to dispose of enemies, and 
sometimes gathered together in some numbers so as to make a 
more vivid and imposing representation of the pains of the 
uninitiated in Hades, and thus induce the superstitious to pay 
the price of their charms 3 . They had a certain amount of 
success, and Theophrastus in his Characters exhibits his Deisi- 
daemon or Superstitious Man as going to them with his wife 
and family to be purified once a month 4 . Such vagabonds 
could hardly have made a living had there been any organized 

1 This was the opinion of Guigniaut, Religions de PAntiguittf, Paris, 1825, 
t. in. p. 1203. 

2 Plato, Republic, Bk n. c. 7, is the classical passage. Of. Ddllinger, 
op. cit. I. pp. 165-167, and references there given. 

3 See Dollinger as in last note. 4 Theophrastus, Characteres, c. xvi. 



IY] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphiei 141 

body ready to render like services in a regular way, and the fact 
of their existence and the contempt with which they are spoken 
of by the writers of the period go some way to show that no 
more 1 regular Orphic brotherhood or sect was ever known in 
Greece. 

There have nevertheless come down to us upwards of eighty 
hymns attributed to Orpheus which all bear a certain likeness 
to each other and were evidently intended by the compiler for 
use in some religious or magical ceremony 1 . They are, like all 
the fragments of Orphic poems that we have, in hexameter 
verse, and most of them conclude with an invocation to the 
divinity to whom they are addressed to be present or to aid in 
the accomplishment of some " work," while this invocation 
often alludes to " mysteries " and " initiates." More than one 
text of these hymns exist, and the differences between them are 
so small that it is plain that their contents must for a long time 
have been known and settled. Much variety of opinion exists 
among the learned as to their date, the theory of their first 
modern commentator being that they were the actual hymns 
used in the Eleusinian Mysteries 2 , while Petersen thought that ' 
they were composed in the ist or und century of our era, 
although he admitted that some eight or nine of them were 
probably older 3 . One of the latest and best opinions seems to be 
that of Prof. Albrecht Dieterich, who thinks that the collection 
dates from the period between 200 B.C. and the birth of Christ, 
and that it was probably made on the sea-coast of Asia Minor and 
that of Egypt near Alexandria 4 . That the hymns were brought 

1 There are 88 in the text published by Abel (OrpMca, pp. 55-102). 
This includes the Hymn to Ares generally classed among the Homeric 
Hymns. 

2 The celebrated Thomas Taylor the Platonist. Pausanias, Bk ix. 
cc. 27 and 30, says that the Hymns of Orpheus were short and few, and that 
the Lycomidae knew and sung them in the Mysteries. 

3 Abel, OrpMca, p. 55, n. 1. 

4 Dieterich, de Hymnis OrpMcis, Marp. Catt. 1891. Otto Kern in the 
Festecfwift presented to Prof. C. R. B. Weidmann, 1910, points out that 
there is no trace of the worship of the Emperor in the Hymns, and that 
these must therefore all be anterior to the Christian era ; also that the 
Egyptian deities are so seldom named in them, that the collection cannot 
have been made in Egypt. He thinks it comes from Asia Minor. 



142 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [OH. 

together for some religious or magical use associated with, the 
Orphic teaching, is evident from the Preface, which purports 
to be an address to Musaeus, the legendary son of Orpheus, 
although it is really an invocation to all the gods worshipped 
by the Orphics, including several who are not specially addressed 
in the hymns which follow. Of the 87 or 88 hymns common to 
most of the codices, all but nine bear after their titles a specifica- 
tion of the particular perfume frankincense, myrrh, spices 
and the like to be burnt while they are sung or recited. Most 
. of the texts bear also an endorsement in another hand reading 
" Comrade ! use [it] with good fortune ! " and this has induced 
Prof. Dieterich and others to conclude that the collection was 
made for the liturgic use of some confraternity or thiasus 
professing Orphic doctrines 1 . The following Hymn to Perse- 
phone will perhaps give a fair notion of the lines upon which 
these hymns are framed : 

HYMN TO PERSEPHONE 2 . 

" Persephone, daughter of great Zeus, come, thou beloved one, 
Only-begotten 3 goddess, accept the offerings well pleasing to thee. 
Much-honoured consort of Pluto, dear giver of life, 
Prasidice, decked with love-locks, chaste offspring of Deo. 
Giver of birth to the Eumenides, queen of those below the earth, 
Virgin whom Zeus begot in unspeakable nuptials 4 
Mother of the loud-shouting, many-formed Eubuleus 5 . 

1 The collection may have been used as an oracle or divirdng-book like 
any other poems written in hexameters. See a curious instance of this in 
Kenyon, Greek Papyri in British Museum, pp. 83 sqq. 

2 This is numbered xxix. in Abel's text. This, and the hymns of 
Hecate, Pluto, the Curetes, Dionysos Bassareus, the Ever-living Deliverer 
(Bacchus), Aphrodite, Nemesis, Nomos, and the doubtful one to Ares are 
the only hymns out of the original collection which have not the note 
appended as to the perfume to be burnt. 

3 MovvoyeWox, " Unique/* see n. 3 p. 124, supra. 

4 So Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. c. II. speaks of " the mysteries of 
Demeter, and Zeus' wanton embraces of his mother and the wrath of 
Demeter . . . also the entreaties of Zeus, and the drink of gall, the plucking- 
out of the hearts of sacrifices and deeds we dare not name." Arnobius, adv. 
Gentes, Bk v. cc. 20, 21, tells substantially the same story. 

6 See n. 2 p. 133, supra. In these hymns it is used always as an epithet 
either of Bacchus or Hades with whom the mystic Bacchus was identified. 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 

145 
Playfellow of the Hours, light-bringer of glorious form, 

Dread ruler of all, virgin teeming with, fruit 
Brilliant-rayed, horned-one, the sole desire of mortals. 
Vernal one, who rejoieest in the breath of the meadows 
Who dost bring to light the sacred shape of green fruit buds. 
Who in autumn time wast wedded in a ravished bed : 
Who art alone the life and death of much-enduring mortals. 
Persephone ! For thou dost ever nourish and slay all things. 
Hear, blessed goddess, and send up fruits from the earth 
Granting us in abundance peace and gentle-handed health 
And a life of happiness, such as leads old age untroubled 
To thy realm, queen, and to dread Pluto." 

By the side of this we may perhaps put the Hymn to Dionysos 
in the same collection. It is probably later than the other in 
date, the syncretism which equates Persephone with Aphrodite, 
Cybele, and Isis pointing to a post- Alexandrian origin. 

[HYMN] OF MISE PERFUME : STOBAX*. 
" I invoke the law-giving, rod-bearing, Dionysos 
The never-to-be-forgotten seed, Eubuleus of many names 
Who art 2 sacred and sacrosanct Mise, inefiable queen I 
Male and female, of double nature, the redeemer [or curse-loosing] 3 

lacchos 

Whether thou art delighting in the sweet-smelling temple of Eleusis 
Or art solemnizing mysteries with the Mother in Phrygia, 
Or art rejoicing in Cyprus with the fair-crowned Cytherea, 
Or dost exult in the pure wheat-bearing plains 
With thy mother divine, black-robed, august Isis 
And thy busy nurses 4 near the Egyptian stream, 
Be gracious and come thou benevolent to accomplish our tasks." 

1 No. XLII. in Abel's Orphica. Persephone was called Mise Kore at 
Pergamum (0. Eadet, Revue des $tudes anciennes> January-March, 1911, 
p. 77), which shows how closely she had become identified with her consort. 
Otherwise the word is only known, I believe, as a name of Dionysos. 

2 re. ..re. 3 Adcreios. 

4 Doubtless the bees, who throughout Asia Minor were said to be 
the attendants of the Great Goddess. The priestesses of the Ephesian 
Artemis were called McAto-crm or Bees, and there were Me'Xtcro-at at Eleusis. 
See Foucart, Grds. Myst. pp. 66, 67. Of. Aristophanes, Frogs, I 1274. So 
were those of Cybele : cf. Lactantius, Dw. Inst, Bk i. c. 22. Cf. also, A. B. 
Cook, " The Bee in Greek Mythology " in J.H.S. xv. (1895), pp. 17 sqq. 



149 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [OH. 

, Whatever date be assigned to these hymns, it is at least 
admitted by all commentators that they were composed for the 
use of persons professing Orphic doctrines, and we shall be on 
safe grounds if we assume that they represent the later state 
of the Orphic teaching. Collating them with the fragments 
of Orphic verses preserved in the quotations of writers during 
the late Pagan and early Christian centuries, we are able to 
reconstitute the whole Orphic creed, as it was known shortly 
before the triumph of Christianity. We see from this that the 
Orphics attributed the actual beginning of the universe to their 
god Dionysos, who first appeared from the egg formed from 
Night or Chaos. In that manifestation, he was bisexual 1 , and 
thus mother, as well as father, of all the gods and goddesses of 
the popular pantheon, the swallowing of his heart by Zeus 
making him one with the Homeric " father of gods and men." 
His second birth was due to the ineffable, or mystic, union of 
Zeus and Demeter, and he was in infancy torn in pieces and 
eaten by the Titans as narrated above. From the ashes of 
these last, men were born, while Dionysos himself became 
Hades, the King of the Dead, over whom he rules with his 
consort Persephone, the daughter, as Dionysos is the son, of 
Zeus and Demeter, and perhaps known to the initiate as 
only the female form of her consort 2 . This pair preside over 
the life and death of mortals, the soul or Dionysiac spark 
.within each man or woman having to pass repeatedly through 
the bodies of other human beings and animals until finally 
purified, when it will be united with Dionysos and thus become 
god 3 . But the process can be made easier and shorter by the 
saving grace of the Mysteries, which by the knowledge they 
confer on the initiate of the constitution and ramification of 



See Orphic Hymn vi. in Abel's Orphica. 

2 As in the Orphic Hymn to Mise quoted above. Of. Dyer, op. cit. 
pp. 178, 179. 

3 That this may have been thought to be the result of the mystic union 
of the initiate with Dionysos seems possible from the statement of Plutarch, 
that this last was born as a man, but by his merit was translated from this 
earthly and suffering body, Life of Pelopidas, c. XVL Of. Budge, Pseudo- 
CallMenes* Life of Alexander the Great, p. 135. 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 145 

the divine nature, of the geography, so to speak, of the next 
world, and of the magical words and formulas to be there re- 
peated, give him a vast advantage over his less favoured fellows 1 . 
The third incarnation of Dionysos, god of wine, begotten by 
the father of gods and men on Semele, daughter of Cadmus, 
after the heart of the infant Zagreus had been sewn in his thigh, 
must be looked upon as a concession to the popular belief in 
a different mythology. To those initiated, whether in the 
Eleusinian or in other mysteries, the last incarnation of Dionysos 
was that brought about by the union of Zeus in serpent shape 2 
with Persephone, and he must have been the child whose mystic 
birth was acted in the Mysteries of Bleusis where he was iden- 
tified with lacchos, the leader of the procession. 

The effect of this creed, the real symbol of the greatest 
movement which ever took place within the religion of the pre- 
Christian Greeks, upon the religions that followed its appearance, 
remains to be considered. In the first place, Orphism went 
a great way towards weaning the minds of men from the idea 
of separate gods for different nations, and towards teaching them 
that all their national and local deities were but different forms 
of one great Power, who was himself the source of all being. 
There can be little doubt that the Orphics thus regarded their 
god Dionysos, whom they made one with his father Zeus, 
and hailed as being in himself female as well as male, and the 
common type of all goddesses as well as of all gods. By their 
readiness to identify him alike with the chthonian god of Eleusis, 
and with all the foreign gods Adonis, Attis, Sabazius, and 
Osiris with whom they were brought in contact, they showed 
how far they were willing to go in the path of syncretism ; and, 
but for the rise of Christianity and other religions, there can be 
little doubt but that the whole of the Graeco-Koman deities 



1 A sort of echo of this is perhaps to be found in the idea prevalent in 
the primitive Church that martyrs for the faith passed direct to a state of 
blessedness without waiting like the rest of the faithful for the Last Judg- 
ment. Of, Revelation vi 9-11 ; Neander, CJi. Hist. i. p. 463. 

2 Zeus Chthonios or the Zeus below the earth. The serpent was always 
to the Orphic poets a symbol or pictorial representation of earth. 

L. 10 



146 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici [on. 

would eventually have merged in Dionysos 1 . Yet although 
in this, as well as in their sanguine idea of the perfectibility of 
man's nature, the Orphics may seem to have done somewhat 
towards elevating and purifying religion, it seems plain that 
their influence was on the whole hostile to it, and had they ever 
aimed at and attained supreme power, would have ended in 
the negation of all religion whatever. Whether the Orphics 
originally demanded from their followers any moral as well as 
material purification cannot now be said ; but the proceedings 
of the Orpheotelestae show us how very early in their teaching 
all such ideas were dropped, and the magical theory of the 
efficacy of the Mysteries as a means of salvation came to out- 
weigh everything else in the eyes of their votaries. The com- 
pulsion of the gods, however, is an idea that, once rooted in the 
mind of man, is sure to bring forth most unwholesome fruit ; 
and Orphism seems to have brought with it from the beginning 
all the worst practices of magic. The Orpheotelestae did not 
scruple, as has been said, to undertake to rid their initiates of 
an inconvenient adversary 2 ; and although this may not at the 
outset have implied anything worse than idle curses, it was at 
any rate murder in intention, and in Greece, as everywhere 
else, early led to the calling-in of the aid of poison. Magical 
rites, too, generally bring with them a more or less pronounced 
worship of devils or evil beings as such, and there are many 
signs that the Orphics by no means confined their invocations 
to powers supposed to be friendly to man. Among the Orphic 
Hymns may be found an invocation to the Titans, who were 
the legendary enemies of Zeus Dionysos and all the celestial 
gods, and it is probable that this instance is not a solitary one 3 . 
The worship of gods given up to evil generally results in the 
depravation of the morals of their votaries, and the purposes 
for which they are invoked are seldom sublime. Most of this 

1 This seems to be the upshot of the remarks in "Pseudo-Callisthenes 
(Budge, op, tit. supra), pp. 8, 12, 40-48, 127, 135. The same idea is 
specially marked in the writings of Proclus and other Neo-Platonists and 
by them attributed to Orpheus. Of. Abel's Orphica, s.v. Teletai, passim. 

2 Plato, Eepubl. Bk n. c. 7. 

8 No. XXXVTL in Abel's Orphica, p. 78. 



iv] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphici 147 

evil sorcery seems to have centred round the cult of Hecate, 
herself a mystery goddess revered at Eleusis and especially dear 
to the Orphics 1 . Down to the very end of paganism, and 
indeed, onward through the Middle Ages and the Benaissance, 
Hecate remained the mistress of magicians and the patron saint 
of sorcerers 2 . 

One other consequence of the Orphic teaching deserves to be 
noted. The syncretistic tendency, "which led the true Orphic 
to regard Zeus, Apollo, Hades, and all the gods and goddesses 
of the popular pantheon as so many varying forms of his own 
Dionysos, must have always rendered him indifferent as to 
what deity received his public devotions. Secure in the sacra- 
mental grace bestowed upon Mm by the mere participation in 
the Mysteries, and fortified by the knowledge of the formulas 
which were by themselves sufficient to ensure him a happy lot 
in the next world, it is plain that he must always have held 
himself at liberty to adore any god or goddess worshipped by 
those among whom he found himself, and that he must have 
been ready to conform outwardly to any religion which seemed 
to offer him any personal advantage. Knowledge, not faith, 
was to him the one thing needful to the soul, and he would be 
as little likely to think of enduring persecution for opinion's 
sake as to approve of inflicting it. The secret rites and the 
secret formulas comprised the whole of his religion. 

To sum up, then, the practical result of their speculations, 
the Orphics taught that the universe had passed through several 
stages of evolution since it was formed from chaos by its First 
God or Divine Workman. Each of these stages was described 
as the reign of a fresh ruler or supreme divinity, who was the 
" son " of the foregoing or, as it would seem, a new incarnation 
of him. Man came into being through the mystic death and 
dispersion throughout the universe of one of the last of these 
incarnations, and therefore contains within himself a spark 

1 See Maury, La Magie et UAstrologie dans VAntiquitd et en Moyen Age, 
Paris, 1860, pp. 54, 55, for authorities. The Orphic Hymns above quoted 
begin with an invocation to Hecate. 

2 As in Shakespeare's Macbeth, 

102 



148 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Orphid [OH. iv 

of the Divine nature which, is capable of purification from the 
contamination of soulless matter. This is effected in the 
ordinary way by a succession of deaths and rebirths in the 
course of which man's soul would pass into that of other animals 
and human beings. But the process was thought to be 
shortened by participation in certain mysteries or secret rites 
handed down by tradition, wherein the hidden constitution and 
purpose of Nature were disclosed to the initiate, and he was 
equipped with mysterious names and formulas thought to 
possess magical power. These, by their mere utterance, gave 
him the right to demand his release from the painful circle of 
rebirths which was the common lot of mankind, and in effect 
turned him into a being superior to man. The possession of 
this wonder-working knowledge or gnosis was not however 
granted indiscriminately to all, but remained a secret confined 
to a favoured few, who were pledged under sufficiently severe 
sanctions not to disclose it. That all religions professed by 
mankind were equal and indifferent in the eyes of the Orphic 
seems to follow logically from this, as does the position that he 
might himself profess any of them that seemed to him expedient. 
We shall find all these features present in the many sects of 
post-Christian Gnostics. 



CHAPTER V 

PRE-CHRISTIAN GNOSTICS : THE ESSENES 

IT comes as rather a wrench to leave the graceful, if vain, 
speculations of the Greeks, with their joyous and free life and 
their passionate worship of beauty, which saw in every shifting 
aspect of nature the revelation of some Being more perfect and 
glorious than man, for the gloomy and misanthropic monotheism 
of the Palestinian Jews. Nor is the change made more pleasant 
when we consider the contrast between the ideas of the two 
nations as to the perfectibility of man's nature and his lot 
after death. While the Greeks under Orphic influence had 
come to look upon their gods as usually well-disposed to man- 
kind 1 and even willing to share their power and place with, at 
any rate, a few highly-gifted or fortunate men, the fanatics 
among the Jews who returned from the Babylonian Captivity 
seem to have seen in their national Deity a jealous and uncom- 
promising tyrant, possessed with a hatred for humanity in 
general, and only extending a modified favouritism to one small 
nation not distinguished by any specially attractive qualities 2 . 

1 So Euripides makes Iphigenia (I. in Taur. 1. 400) say, " I think not 
that any one of the gods is bad." Cf. J. A. Hild, t. BUT les Demons, pp. 53, 
136. In sharp contrast to the Jewish idea exemplified in Deuteronomy of 
a god whose " name is Jealous " is Plato's description of the Creator in 
the Timceus (40 a), " He is not jealous, for he is good, and in him that is 
good no jealousy exists." 

2 It should be noted that what is said here of the Jews applies not to 
the Hebrew race in general, but only to those members of it who settled 
in Palestine after the return from the Captivity. Winwood Reade puts the 
matter with no less truth than point when he says (Martyrdom of Man, 
p. 203) : " The people who did return were chiefly the fanatics, the clergy, 
and the paupers. The harvest. . .was worthy of the seed." 



150 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [CBL 

To this nation, Yahweh had, according to their own traditions, 
promised exclusive temporal advantages ; but in spite of this 
promise they had become in turn the slaves or tributaries of 
the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Assyrians, Chaldaeans, and 
Persians, and had been more than once forcibly removed by 
their masters from the land that they looked upon as their 
God-given inheritance. Moreover, the grace, such as it was, of 
the Deity they worshipped was held by them to extend to this 
life only, after which they thought they would either perish 
like the beasts or would lead at the best a shadowy and colour- 
less existence in Sheol or Hades, like that which called forth 
the complaints of the Achilles of the Odyssey 1 . Hence the 
soil of Judaea at the coming of Alexander might have seemed 
to anyone to be as unlikely a field for the propagation of ideas 
resembling those of the Orphics as could well be imagined. But 
the Jews, with all their pragmatism and narrowness of ideal, 
have always shown a power of assimilating the ideas of others 
and of adapting themselves to the usages of the peoples among 
whom they are cast by a sort of protective mimicry like that 
to which the preservation of certain insect types is said to be 
due. This quality had already stood them in good stead during 
their different periods of captivity in Egypt and Chaldaea, 
where before Alexander's conquests they had contrived to get 
a good deal of the financial management of their captors' affairs 
into their own hands, and where they doubtless acted as spies 
and guides to the armies of the Great Conqueror 2 . For these 
services Alexander after his fashion royally rewarded them ; 
but the real crisis of the nation's fate approached when Alex- 
ander's work was done, and when the different nationalities 
which he had forced, as it were, into the melting-pot, became 
tired of acting as pieces in the war game played by his generals 
and successors, and began to look favourably upon the security 
offered by the Koman government. In this new order of the 
world, Palestine, which had hitherto owed its autonomous 

1 B. H. Charles, A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life 
( Jowett Lectures), 1899, pp. 33-50, and authorities there quoted. 

2 J. P. Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptolemies, pp. 85, 86. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the J&ssenes 151 

existence to the fact that it formed a useful buffer state or 
neutral ground separating the two great powers Egypt and 
Syria and was not vehemently desired by any other nation, 
saw the reason for her w$i-independence vanishing. Ptolemy 
Soter, with his usual prescience, had early seen the advantage 
of getting this borderland into his own custody, and had 
captured Jerusalem, it is said, one Sabbath morning, when the 
superstition of the inhabitants deterred them from defending it 
effectually 1 . The story, as thus told, probably owes something 
to the necessity for flatteriag the national vanity ; but it is 
evident that the politic Lagides knew how to reconcile the 
Jews to the easy yoke of their suzerainty, and under the early 
Ptolemies the Jews remained generally faithful to Egypt. 
When Egypt's sway became enfeebled after the reign of 
Ptolemy IV Philopator, Antiochus the Great seized upon 
Palestine, probably with the connivance of a part of its in- 
habitants 2 ; and although it remained fairly contented with 
its new masters until Antiochus' death, in the reign of his 
successor, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Jews found themselves 
confronted with a very disagreeable dilemma. For Antiochus 
Epiphanes, after his successful attack upon Egypt had been 
frustrated by the Romans, saw plainly enough that only an 
empire united and homogeneous in faith and culture could 
resist for long the new power rising in the West 3 , and resolved 
to force on the complete Hellenization of the Jews at all hazards. 
How he failed is told in the Books of the Maccabees, although 
his failure brought little good to his rebellious subjects, who 
soon passed with the rest of his empire into the hands of the 
victorious Romans. 

To this end, the splitting-up of the chosen people into warring 
sects .materially contributed. Josephus, writing somewhere 
about the year 70 A.D., tells us that there existed in his day 
three " philosophic " sects among the Jews 4 . The first two of 
these were the Pharisees and Sadducees familiar to everybody 

1 Droysen, HdUwsme, n. p. 155. 

2 Mahaffy, op. ciL p. 87 and n. 1 ; ibid. p. 293 and nn. 1 and 2. 

3 W. D. Morrison/Jews under Roman Ruk, pp. 5, 6, 

4 Jos. de Bell Bk n. c. 8, passim. 



152 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

through their mention in the New Testament, and the third 
was the " Essenes." These Essenes a name which by 
some has been thought to mean " the Pure 1 " he describes 
as a small sect numbering not more than 4000 in all, and 
scattered throughout the villages of Palestine. They lived 
entirely by manual labour, such as agriculture, and were extra- 
ordinarily hospitable to other members of the same sect, so 
that an Essene never found it necessary to take anything with 
him on a journey, but could always obtain what he wanted from 
his fellow-sectaries, even though personally unknown to them. 
As to their doctrines, he tells us that though " Jews by birth " 
they abjured marriage 2 , and only recruited their ranks by 
adoption. They practised, on the same authority, the fullest 
community of goods, and forbade conversation on worldly 
matters before the rising of the sun, at which they repeated 
certain traditional prayers, cc as if they made supplication for 
his rising." Their meals were always eaten in common and in 
a sacramental manner, purification in cold water and the 
donning of white garments being a necessary preliminary 3 . 
Sobriety and restraint in speech were, he says, among their 
most marked characteristics, and they avoided the taking of 
judicial oaths, averring that " he who cannot be believed with- 
out swearing by God is already condemned." Initiation into 
the sect was both long and difficult. The novice on his first 
reception was presented with a hatchet, a girdle and a white 
garment, but was not allowed to associate with the rest of the 
order, it being held that they would be defiled if he did so. 
In spite of this, he was forced to observe the austerities of the 
order for a year before being allowed " the waters of purifi- 
cation," and for two years further before being admitted to full 

1 Or " the Pious." See Morrison, op. eft. p. 327 ; A. Julicher in fflncyc. 
Bibl s.v. Essenes, ooL 1397, n. 1. 

2 There was, says Josephus, loc. cit. 13, another order of Essenes which 
married and had children. The reason given for the celibacy of the first 
order is not the Orphic one, ibid. 2. 

3 Cf. the Agapae or love-feasts of the Greek thiasi and the Christian 
Church. There is no authority, however, for supposing that the meal was 
regarded by the Essenes as a sacrifice. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes 153 

association with the other members and the common meal 1 . 
After this probation, he was sworn on 

" the most tremendous oaths to be just towards all men and faithful 
to the order, not discovering any of their doctrines to others, no, 
not though he should be compelled to do so at the risk of his life." 

Moreover, he had to swear 

" to communicate their doctrines to no one in any other manner 
than that in which he had received them himself ; to abstain from 
robbery 2 and that he would equally preserve the books belonging to 
the sect and the names of the angels," 

Their doctrine concerning the future life was : 

u That bodies are corruptible and that the matter of which they are 
made is not permanent ; but that souls are immortal, and continue 
for ever ; and that they come out of the most subtle air, and are 
united to their bodies as in prisons, into which they are drawn by 
a certain natural enticement 3 ; but that when they are set free from 
the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, 
rejoice and mount upward 4 ." 



1 The girdle has been thought to be identical with the Tcosti or sacred 
thread of the Parsis. The use of the hatchet or pick was to bury the ejecta, 
perhaps for sanitary reasons. The Essenes were said to be further divided 
into four classes ( Josephus, loc. cit. 10), but Josephus does not say what 
these classes were, and it is doubtful whether there is any foundation for 
the statement. 

2 Ibid. 7. From the context, it would seem that " robbery " here 
means the attempt to obtain possession of the secrets of the order by 
stealth. In an earlier part of the same section the neophyte is said to be 
sworn to " keep his hands clear from theft, and his soul from unlawful 
gains." 

3 I.e. by sexual desire. The same idea is met with in the doctrines of 
Simon Magus, see Chap. VI, infra, and in many other sects. Cf. Cumont, 
Mecherches sur le Manich&sme, Bruxelles, 1908, pt I. Appx 1, "La Sduc- 
tion des Archontes " for particulars. 

4 Dr Kohler, apparently a Rabbi of New York, gives other particulars 
of the Essenic initiation, including a song describing Heaven and Hell, 
This he takes from the Testament of Job described by him in the Festschrift 
called Kohut's Semitic Studies, Berlin, 1897, pp. 265 sqq. Among other 
things, he thinks the initiate was told that Satan was the cosmocrator, or 



154 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

Finally, Josephus tells us that the Essenes take great pains 
in "studying the writings of the ancients and choose out of 
them what is most for the advantage of their soul and body," 
that they were much given to the practice of medicine, and had 
those among them " who undertake to foretell things to come 
by reading the holy books and using several sorts of purifica- 
tions, and being perpetually conversant in the discourses of 
the prophets," a statement which is explained by another 
passage 1 wherein he tells us that they believed " fate forms all 
things and nothing befalls men but according to it." From 
yet another passage 2 we learn that they were excluded from the 
Temple worship and offered their sacrifices for themselves 
instead of through the regular Jewish priesthood 3 . 

That Josephus' account of the Essenes is fairly accurate 
and well informed appears from the fact that Philo of Alexandria, 
writing some fifty years earlier than he, also asserts that they 
numbered " in his opinion about 4000," and explains their 
abstention from the Temple worship as being due to their 
objection to sacrificing living animals 4 . Philo further tells us 
that there were among them no makers of warlike weapons, that 
they refrained from trade and had no slaves ; but that their 
principal study was that of the Jewish Law and the " enquiry 
into the being of God and the creation of the universe." 

ruler of the world, and that the sacred girdle was an amulet which would 
enable him both to defy Satan's snares, and to see the wonders of the world 
of angels. But I do not see that he brings forward any proof that either 
this book or what he calls the whole Job literature is attributable to the 
Essenes. 

1 Joseph. Antiq. Bk xirr. c. 5, 9. 

2 Id. op. cit. Bk xvm. c. 1, 5. 

8 Their supposed sun-worship seems to resolve itself into the usual 
Jewish prayer at dawn, see Cheyne, Jewish Religious Life after Exile* New 
York, 1898, note on p. 251, and Jiilicher, Encyc. Bibl. s.v. Essenes. 

4 Philo Judaeus, Quod Omnis Probus Lib&r, c. xn. ; id. Apologia in 
Eusebius, Praep. Evang. Bk vm. c. 13. The authenticity of both works 
has been attacked (for the controversy v. Morrison, op. cit. p. 347, n. 2) 
with some success. While therefore there can be no doubt that they are 
from the pen of some of Philo's school, it is not impossible that they may 
be later than Josephus and have copied his statements. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes 155 

According to him, on the seventh or holy day when no work 
was done, they were accustomed to meet together, when one 

" takes up the holy volume and reads it, and another of the men 
of the greatest experience [among them] comes forward and 
explains what is not very intelligible, for a great many precepts are 
delivered in enigmatical modes of expression and allegorically." 

He at the same time confirms Josephus' statement as to their 
having all goods in common. 

Pliny in his Natural History also speaks of the Essenes ; 
but adds little to our knowledge, except the remark that it 
was the irksomeness of this present life which in his opinion 
gave rise to the sect 1 . Of the Christian heresiologists, Hip- 
polytus in his Philosophumena merely repeats the statements 
of Josephus with the doubtfully accurate addition that the 
Essenes believed in a final conflagration of the world 2 and the 
eternal punishment of the damned; while Epiphanius in his 
Panarion shows plainly that he had no first-hand knowledge of 
the Essenes and did not understand the traditional accounts of 
the sect which must have been extinct a long time before he 
wrote 3 . Porphyry in his treatise on Abstinence avowedly quotes 
from Josephus only 4 . 

We see, then, that all we really know about the Essenes is 
contained in the accounts of Josephus and Philo ; but on this 
slender foundation there has been raised a vast superstructure 
of conjecture which the unprejudiced reader will probably 
consider too heavy for its base. The Essenes have been claimed 
by different writers as merely a strict order of Pharisees, as 

1 Pliny, Hist. Nat. Bk v. c. 15 : In diem ex aeqw> convenarum turba 
renascitur large frequentantibm, quos vita fessos ad mores eorum fortunae 
fluctus agitat. 

2 Hippolytus, Philosophumena, Bk ix. c. 27, pp. 465, 466, of Cruice. 
Later, he attributes the same doctrine to the Pharisees. His desire to show 
that in both cases it was derived by the Jews from the Pythagoreans or 
the Stoics is manifest. 

3 Epiphanius, Panar. Bk i. t. i. Haer. x. c, 1 (pp. 75, 76 of Oehler, 
vol. ii. pt 1). Epiphanius makes them a Samaritan sect. 

4 Porphyrius, de Abstinentia, Bk iv. 



156 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

Zoroastrians, and as Buddhists. It has been argued that 
St John Baptist was an Essene and even that Jesus Himself 
belonged to the sect 1 . A more probable theory is that the 
Essenes derived some of their tenets from the Orphics, whose 
views were particularly prevalent at Alexandria in the time of 
the early Ptolemies, as well as in Asia Minor under the Seleucids. 
Prom the death of Alexander the Great until that of Antiochus 
Epiphanes, Palestine was, as we have seen, successively under 
the sway of these two rival dynasties, and it was the rapid 
progress of the Jews towards Hellenization in culture, religion, 
and morals that brought about the Maccabaean uprising, in 
connection with which we first hear of the Essenes 2 . Hence 
this is the time when, if ever, we should expect the Orphic 
teaching to affect the Jews, and it is difficult to see whence the 
Essenes derived their views of the pre-existence of the soul if 
that be indeed the construction to be placed upon the scanty 
and obscure words of Josephus except from Orphism 3 . Save 
for this, however, there is no very cogent reason for attributing 
to this Jewish sect an Orphic origin. The use of white garments 
is in a hot climate too general a practice to be really charac- 
teristic, while the abstinence from the procreation of children 
and from food that has had life, although common to the 
Essenes and the Orphics 4 , may easily have come to the Jews 

1 Julicher in Encyc. BibL ubi cit. and Ritschl and Lucius there quoted ; 
J. B. Lightfoot, Epistles to Colossians and to Philemon, 1876, pp. 82-93, 
348-419, and Hilgenfeld, Die Ketzergeschichte des Urchristenthums, Leipzig, 
1884, p. 156 ; Arthur Lillie, Buddhism in Christendom, 1887, passim ; id. 
Buddha and Buddhism, Edinburgh, 1900, pp. 159 sqq. Buddhism is however 
posterior in time to Orphism, as Buddha did not die till B.C. 483 (see Fleet in 
J.M.A.S. 1909, p. 22), which was some years after the break-up of the 
Pythagorean school. 

2 See note 1 p. 154, supra. 

3 There is no evidence of a belief in the pre-existence of the soul in 
Persian religion until the rise of the worship of Mithras in the ist century B.C. 
See Chap. XII, infra. Marshall (Hastings' Diet, of Bibk, s.v. Pre-existence) 
would find proof of the doctrine among the Jews in the Book of Wisdom 
and PhUo. Both are much later than Orphism. 

4 But see note 2 p. 152, supra. Jewish priests after the Exile were for- 
bidden to wear wool or to touch corpses, prohibitions which have an Orphic 
twang. See Ezekiel xliv. 17, 23. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes 157 

from more quarters than one. To the Essene refusal to take 
oaths and to engage in trade there is no parallel whatever in 
the Orphic teaching 1 . 

But, although there is thus little sign of a direct connection 
of the Essenes with the Orphics, there can hardly be any doubt 
that the Jewish sect were Gnostics in the larger sense in which 
the word is used above. The one distinguishing fact which 
stands out from Josephus' account of them is that they had 
secret doctrines of a kind differing from the beliefs of the rest 
of the Jews. This is shown by the great pains taken by them 
in the choice of neophytes, the C tremendous oaths " by which 
they, who forbade swearing in general, enforced secrecy upon 
them, and the prohibition to confide their teaching to any save 
by a long and tedious process of initiation. The only hints we 
have as to the nature of these doctrines are contained in Philo's 
statement that they were given to the enquiry into the being 
of God and the creation of the universe, and in that of Jose- 
phus that the initiate into these secrets was sworn " to preserve 
the books of the sect and the names of the angels." Dr Kohler 
and other Jewish writers see in Philo's statement a reference to 
the speculations of the later Jewish Cabala upon what is there 
called " the Mystery of the Chariot " and cc the Mystery of the 
Creation 2 " ; or in other words how the universe came forth 
from God and how it is governed. Although the proof of this 
is slender, it seems probable from the tendency of the whole of 
the Apocryphal literature of the time which dealt principally 
with the same subjects. It is evident that the Essene interpre- 
tation of the Old Testament, then recently made familiar to the 
Jews by the Alexandrian translation into Greek known as the 
Septuagint, must have been different in some respects from that 
of the other Jews, and that it must have been in some way 
likely to shock those who held by the traditional interpretation, 
as otherwise there would have been no necessity for the Essenes 

So far from despising wealth, many of the Orphic Hymns pray for 
riches. Cf. Hymns x. xm. xiv. xix. XL. etc. in Abel's Orphica. 

K. Kohler, Testam&nt of Job, in Kohut's Semitic Studies, Berlin, 1897, 
pp. 281, 282 ; Isidore Loeb in La Grande Envyclop&lie, Paris, s.v. La Cabbale 
Juive, p. 587. 



158 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

to bind their neophytes to so strict a secrecy. From Philo's 
language on this point it would seem that they interpreted both 
the Law and the Prophets in some non-natural manner, and it 
is likely enough that this took the shape of the juggling with 
the numerical values of the letters of which we find at least one 
instance in the Eevelation of St John, and to which we shall 
have to return later 1 . 

What now can be said in explanation of Josephus' statement 
that the Essenes were sworn to secrecy as to the " names of 
the angels " ? The personal name of no angel appears in the 
Old Testament except in the Book of Daniel, now generally ad- 
mitted to have been written in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, 
and there is on the face of it no reason why any Jew should 
wish to keep those there given Gabriel and Michael secret. 
But the knowledge of the name of an inhabitant of the spirit 
world was at the time of which we are speaking held throughout 
the East to give a magician full power over the being named, 
and this belief was universal in the magic of all the nations 
among whom the Jews had found themselves since the Captivity 2 . 
There is thus every likelihood that the Essenes used " the names 
of the angels " for magical purposes, and this is borne out by 
the tradition that it was as exorcists of demons and healers of 
disease that they were afterwards celebrated 3 . The manner in 
which these names were used may be judged from the tradition 
among the Jews that each tribe or order of demons was governed 
by an angel, and that his subjects were bound to obey upon 
being addressed by his name 4 . 

1 Rev. xiii 18. A. Hausrath, History of New Testament Times (Eng. 
ed.), 1878, vol. i. pp. 113-117, gives all the different processes of what is 
called the "Practical" Cabala with illustrations. Cf. Ad. Franck, La 
Kabbah, Paris, 1843, p. 167, n. 2. 

2 J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, 3rd ed. pt n. vol. r. pp. 318-334, 
gives references to, I think, all the authorities for this belief, which even 
at the present day is universal among primitive people. 

3 Morrison, op. cit. p. 338, for authorities. Exorcism for the healing of 
disease followed naturally from their demonology, which taught that 
diseases were caused by demons. See Hausrath, Hist, of N. T. Times 
(Eng. ed.), i. p. 127. 

4 Hausrath, op. ciL i. pp. 124, 125 ; Clementine Homilies, Bk v. c. 5. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes 159 

It was partly, and perhaps mainly, from this sect of the 
Bssenes that there came, according to the general opinion of 
scholars, the apocryphal or secret literature which, from the 
name of its principal book, may be described under the generic 
name of Enochian 1 . In the Book of Enoch in its various forms 
was set forth a vast system of teaching on matters which the 
Canonical books of the Old Testament hardly touch. Here we 
have a complete cosmogony in which the mundane egg 2 of the 
Orphics plays its part ; and the duties of the innumerable orders 
of angels and their connection with the heavenly bodies, the 
rebellion of Satan and his host against Gkd, the fall of the 
Watchers, or angels set over the earth, through the beauty of 
mortal women, and the arrangement of the different heavens 
and hells all find a place in it 3 . But it also deals at great 
length with that Messianic hope which had for two centuries 
been dangled by the Prophets before Israel, and which, thanks 
to the "materialistic sense in which it was interpreted by the 
vast majority of Jews, was to lead directly to their extermina- 
tion as a nation 4 . The Book of Enoch and its many successors 
and imitators are full of predictions of the coming of a Messiah, 
who should lead the chosen race to the conquest of the world, 
and, what was to them probably an even more alluring prospect, 
to the overthrow and enslavement of all the other peoples in it 5 . 

1 F. C. Porter in Hastings' Diet, of Bible, s.v. Apocrypha, and Well- 
hausen as there quoted. A list of the books comprised in the expression 
used in the text with conjectural dates and authorship is given by R. EL 
Charles in the same work, SAJ. Apocalyptical Literature. Cf article 
under same heading (also by Charles) in Encyclopaedia Biblica. Prof. 
Charles is less inclined than earner writers (e.g. Lightfoot and Kohler, 
opp. tit.) to credit the Essenes with the composition of the whole of this 
literature ; but he admits that part of the Book of Enoch, chap, cviii 
1-15, is by Essene hands. The other parts attributed to the Essenes by 
Sieffert, Tideman, and Cheyne are indicated by him in The Book of Enoch, 
Oxford, 1893, pp. 13, 14, 21. 

2 The, Book of the Secrets of Enoch (Mornll and Charles trans.), Oxford, 
1896, p. 32. 

8 Charles, Book of Enoch, tit. &up. pp. 24-33. 

* Id. op. tit. chap. xc. 28-38 ; of. id. Grit. Hist. p. 192. 

5 Charles, Book of Enoch, xc. 30. 



160 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

In the earlier parts of the Ethiopic version which is in itself, 
as Dr Charles has pointed out, but " a fragmentary survival 
of an entire literature that once circulated under the name of 
Enoch 1 "it is described how 

" the Holy and Great One will come forth from His dwelling, the 
God of the world, and going from thence He will tread on Mount 
Sinai and appear with. His hosts, and in the strength of His might 
appear from heaven 2 ." 

The judgment and destruction of all but the elect is next 
described, and the hurling do.wn of the sinning angels into " the 
abyss of fire," while the electthat is, the Jews, or perhaps 
only the Essenes are to live among millennial blessings of a 
material kind and in the enjoyment of universal peace 3 . This 
seems to represent fairly the earlier Essene teaching upon this 
point, and there is reason to suppose that it was written before 
the Maccabaean struggles, after which the decadence of the 
Syrian Empire under Antiochus Epiphanes hard pressed as 
he was by the Eomans on one side and the Parthians on the 
other allowed the Jews to obtain a temporary independence, 
and to set up a kingdom of their own for the first and last time 
in their history 4 . But the wine of military success and political 
independence proved too strong for the heads of the race which 
had hitherto been the tributaries and subjects of the Persian, the 
Greek, the Egyptian, and the Syrian Empires in turn, and, like 
their kinsmen the Arabs of Mohammed's time and the Mahdists 
in our own, nothing less would now satisfy the fanatical among 
them than universal domination. In the later parts of the same 
work, the aspirations of the writers become more bloodthirsty 
and less spiritual, and we hear of a time " When the congregation 

1 Chaxles, Book of Enoch, p. 24. 

2 Id. op. tit. chap. I. 4, 3 Id. op. tit. chap. i. 8. 

4 David had the Philistines for suzerain, as Solomon had Egypt, of. 
Stanley A. Cook, in JBncyc. BibL s.v. David, and Maspero, Hi$t. anc, des 
Peuples de VOrieiti, 1904, pp. 391, 422. Their successors, too, up to the 
Captivity seem to have always been tributaries to Assyria, Chaldaea, 
or Egypt. After that event, they were of course vassals to the Persian and 
Macedonian Empires. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the JEssenes 161 

of the righteous will appear 1 /' a phrase which seems to cover the 
coming-forth of some sect or society till then kept in seclusion. 
" Then/' it goes on to say, " will the kings and the mighty 
perish and be given into the hand of the righteous and holy 2 ." 
In another part of the same book, we hear of angels being sent to 

" the PartMans and Medes, to stir np the kings and provoke in them, 
a spirit of unrest, and rouse them from their thrones, that they may 
break forth from their resting-places as lions and as hungry wolves 
among the flocks 3 ." 

These are to make one final assault upon Jerusalem, and 

" to tread under foot the land of His elect ones and the land of His 
elect ones will be before them a threshing floor and a path. But 
the city of My righteous [i.e. Jerusalem] will be a hindrance to their 
horses, and they will begin to fight among themselves, and their 
right hand will be strong against themselves, and a man will not 
know his brother, nor a son his father or Ms mother, till the number 
of corpses through their slaughter is beyond count, and their punish- 
ment be no idle one. And in those days Sheol will open his jaws, 
and they will be swallowed up therein, and their destruction will 
be at an end. Sheol will devour the sinners in the presence of the 
elect 4 ." 

This, according to the author who has made the most exhaustive 
study of the Enochian literature yet attempted, must have 
been written after the spirit which had inspired the Maccabaean 
revolt had died away under the tyranny and luxury of the later 

1 Charles, Book of Enoch, chap, xxxviii 1. 

2 Op. tit. chap, xxxviii. 5. Cf. xlvt 4, " And this Son of Man whom 
thou hast seen will arouse the kings and the mighty ones from their 
thrones, and will loosen the reins of the strong and grind to powder the 
teeth of the sinners.*' 

3 Op. cit. chap. Ivi. 5. This verse, which Dr Charles considers an 
interpolation, was evidently written in 40 B.C., when a Parthian army 
under Pacorus invaded Palestine and put a puppet of their own on the 
throne of Jerusalem, and before 39 B.C., when Publius Ventidius Bassus 
drove the PartMans back to their own country. Cf. Morrison, Jews, etc., 
pp. 58-61, and authorities there quoted, 

4 Charles, Book of Enoch, chap. Ivi 6-8. 

L. 11 



162 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OIL 

Jewish kings 1 . It seems very difficult, in the face of the many 
interpolations that the documents have undergone at the hands 
of Jewish and even Christian writers, to decide how much of 
these prophecies can be attributed directly to the sect of the 
Essenes ; but there can be little doubt that they accurately 
represent the hope of supremacy over the nations which they 
shared with the Pharisees and the other fanatics among the 
Jewish nation. Only thus can we explain the community of 
goods and the very un-Jewish contempt for money-making 
which formed the most singular features of Essene practice 2 . 
To those who expected to be immediately put in possession of 
the whole earth all desire for worldly advancement must have 
been a matter of indifference. A similar conviction led to the 
maintenance of the same practice in the Christian Church so 
long as she continued to believe in the nearness of the Parusia 
or Second Coming of her Founder 3 . 

Erom this dream of universal dominion, nothing seemed 
able to arouse the poorer Jews. In vain did the Sadducees, 
who comprised those of the nation who had become rich either 
by trading with the Gentile or by dependence on the luxurious 
Jewish Court, try to persuade the people that they had better 
make the best of the Hellenist culture thrust upon them than 
try to arrest its progress by fighting against powers that would 
crush them like glass when once sufficiently provoked 4 . In 
vain did the Syrian Empire, warned by the mistakes of Antiochus 

1 Charles, op. ciL p. 108. He there puts the date of the Similitudes, as 
this portion of the Book of Enoch is called, about a quarter of a century 
before the Parthian invasion. In that case, the prediction in the text 
would be about the only instance of fulfilled political prophecy known. 
But the discrepancy is doubtless to be explained by the theory of inter- 
polation after the event. 

4 As in the admittedly Essene portion of the Book of Enoch (Charles, 
op. tit. chap, cviii 8) : *' Who loved God and loved neither gold nor silver, 
nor any of the goods of the world." 

3 Compare with this the desire to rid themselves of this world's goods 
which seized upon the inhabitants of Western Europe in 1000 A.B., when 
it was believed that the Second Advent was at hand, and donations to the 
Clrarch beginning * e in view of the approaching end of the world " were 
common. 

4 Schiirer, Hist, of Jewish People (Eng. ed), n. pp. 157, 168. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Ussenes 163 

Epiphanes in Hellenizing the Jews against their will, accord 
them the largest possible religious liberty and even acknowledge 
their right to self-government in exchange for tribute 1 . When 
the Komans, whom, according to their own account, they had 
called in to protect them against their Syrian overlords, destroyed 
once for all their chance of remaining an independent state, they 
not only gave the Jews the fullest liberty to practise their own 
religion, but set over them first a vassal king and then tetrarchs 
of Semitic blood, who might be supposed to moderate the too 
pronouncedly Western ideas of the Roman governor of Syria 2 . 
But these concessions were no more effective in inducing the 
Jews to settle down quietly as the peaceful tributaries of a great 
empire than had been the severities of Antiochus. They seized 
every opportunity to revolt, every time with the accompani- 
ment of horrible atrocities committed upon those unfortunate 
Gentiles who for a moment fell into their power, until, some 
sixty years after the Destruction of the Temple by Titus, 
Hadrian had to wage against them the awful war of extermina- 
tion which extinguished their nationality for ever. At the 
Fair of the Terebinth, when every able-bodied Jew left alive 
in Palestine was sold into slavery, the nation must have realized 
at last the vanity of its dream 3 . 

During this time, that is to say, between the years 168 B.C. 
and 135 A.D., the flood of Apocalyptic literature never ceased to 
pour forth. All of it was what is called pseudepigraphical, that 
is to say, the books of which it was composed were falsely 
attributed to Enoch, the sons of Jacob, Moses, Job, Ezra, 
Baruch, and other personages of the Old Testament. Not all 
of these have come down to us, but a considerable number of 
books have survived. The pre-Christian ones that we have, 

1 Josephus, Antiq. Bk xin. cap. 2, 3, where the tributes and taxes are 
set forth. Morrison, op. tit. p. 360, notes that the Jews, showed no hostility 
to the tribute payable to the Greek kings, and that it was the Koman 
system of taxation which most embittered their feelings against the Gentiles. 

2 Morrison, op. tit. pp. 41, 42. 

8 Benan, in Kflglise Cbr&ienne, chap, xi, tells the story with as 
much grace as truth. His account is largely taken from the investigations 
of Hartwig Derenbourg, himself of Jewish blood. Cf. Morrison, op. tit. 
pp. 198-206. 

112 



164 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

included, beside the Ethiopian Book of Enoch quoted above, the 
Testaments of the XII Patriarchs, the Psalms of Solomon., and 
part of the Sibylline Oracles. Later probably than the begin- 
ning of our era, appeared the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, which 
Dr Charles thinks was written in Egypt, the Wisdom literature, 
certainly having the same place of origin, the Book of Jubilees 
or little Genesis, the Assumption of Moses, the rest of the 
Sibyllines, the Apocalypse of Baruch, the later books of Macca- 
bees, and the Fourth Book of Esdras 1 . One and all of these 
deal with the glories before the Jewish nation, when by super- 
natural help it will be able to turn the tables on its would-be 
civilizers, and one and all breathe the most virulent hatred 
against every body who is not a Jew 2 . They show no consensus 
of opinion as to the future lot of the Gentiles ; for, while some 
teach that the victories of the Messiah will end in their complete 

1 They are arranged in the text as near as possible in the order of their 
probable dates. As to these and on the question of authorship, see Charles,. 
Grit. Hist. pp. 172-226. The Sibylline Oracles can now be consulted in 
the scholarly edition of Rzach (Sibyllina Oracula, 1891), and in Dr Charles' 
Apocrypha of the O.T. (see below). The Greek text of the Psalms of 
Solomon with a French translation and critical introduction has been 
published by Dr J. Viteau and M. ITran$ois Martin (Les Psaumes de Salomon* 
Paris, 1911). (The Odes of Solomon recently recovered for us by Dr Rendel 
Harris are most probably Christian hymns.) The Latin text of the 4th 
Book of Esdras is given by Bensly and James in Cambridge Texts and 
Studies, vol. nr. No. 2, and an English translation of part of it appears in 
the Apocrypha of the A. V. (see Speaker's Commentary for a good text and 
commentary by Lupton). The Wisdom Literature, i.e. the Wisdom of 
Solomon and Ecclesiasticus, also appears in the Apocrypha of the A.V., 
as do the Books of Maccabees. English versions of all the other books with 
critical notes and introductions have been published by Prof. Charles as 
foUows : Boole of Enoch, Oxford, 1893 ; Book of the Secrets oj Enoch, Oxford, 
1896; Apocalypse of Baruch, 1896; Assumption of Moses, 1897; Book of 
Jubilees, 1902 ; and Testament of the XII Patriarchs, 1908* All the 
above appear in English dress inDr Charles' Apocrypha and PseudepigravJia 
oftheO.T., Oxford, 1913. 

2 See note 2 p. 149, supra. The essentially Jewish tendency towards 
hyperbole and exaggeration in language must, however, be allowed for. 
As someone has said, " Jacob I have loved, and Esau I have hated," in the 
mouth of a Jew means little more than that on the whole th speaker 
prefers Jacob to Esau. See also note 1 p. J63, supra. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes 165 

annihilation, others declare that they will be preserved to 
become, as Isaiah had prophesied, the servants and hand- 
maidens of the Jews, to build up the walls of Jerusalem, and 
to be the herdsmen, ploughmen, and vinedressers of Israel 1 . 
Others again, held that the Gentiles would be hurled into 
Gehenna with the sinning angels 2 even those who were dead 
being raised again for that purpose and would there be 
tormented for ever in the presence of the Jews, who were to 
find one of their chief pleasures in the sight of their sufferings 3 . 

" And I saw all the sheep that had been left, and all the beasts of 
the earth, and all the birds of the heaven," 

says the pseudo-Enoch in a vision wherein he describes under 
this figure the nations which had not been destroyed by the 
celestial hosts of the Messiah, 

C falling down and doing homage to those sheep [i.e. the Jews] and 
making petition to and obeying them in every thing 4 ." 

For the world was made for the Jews and the perversity of the 
Gentiles was divinely ordained for the express purpose that their 
" punishment " might be great 5 . 

" All this I have spoken before thee, Lord," says the Apocryphal 
Ezra, " because thou madest the world for our sakes. As for the 
other people which also came of Adam, thou hast said that they are 
nothing, but are like unto spittle, and hast likened the abundance 
of them unto a drop that falleth from a vessel 6 . And now Lord 
behold, these heathen, which have ever been reputed as nothing, 

have begun to be lords over us, and to devour us If the world 

now be made for our sakes, why do we not enter into possession 
of our world ? How long shall this endure ? " And then comes 
Yahweh's answer : " Behold I will call together all the kings of the 
earth to reverence me, which are from the rising of the Sun, from the 
South, from the East, and Libanus : to turn themselves one against 

1 Isaiah xiv. 2 ; Ix. 10 ; Ixi. 5. All these passages are now said to 
be post-Exilic by Charles, Grit. Hist. p. 115. 

2 Charles, Apocalypse of Baruch, chap. xxx. 4, 5 ; chap, xxxvi 11 ; 
4 Esdras vii 87. 

3 Charles, Book of Enoch, chap, xlviii 9 ; Ixii 9-12. 

4 Op. cit. chap. xc. 30. 5 See note 3 p. 166, infra. 
s Cf. Isaiah xl. 15. 



166 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

another, and repay that they have done to thee. Like as they do 
yet this day unto my chosen, so will I do also, and recompense in 
their "bosom 1 ." " After the signs have come of which thou wast 
told before," says the Apocalypse of BarucJi, " when the nations 
become turbulent, and the time of My Messiah is come, He shall 
both summon all the nations, and some of them He shall spare and 
some of them He shall slay. These things therefore shall come upon 
the nations which are to be spared by Him. Every nation which 
knows not Israel, and has not trodden down the seed of Jacob, 
shall indeed be spared. And this because some out of every nation 
shall be subjected to thy people. But all those who have ruled 
over you, or have known you, shall be given up to the sword 2 ." 
So in the Book of Jubilees we are told that God 
" sanctified [Israel] and gathered it from amongst all the children of 
men ; for there are many nations and many peoples, and all are His 
and over all hath He placed spirits in authority to lead them astray 
from Him. But over Israel He did not appoint any angel or spirit 3 ." 
As for the delight in the sufferings of the damned Gentiles it 
is poetically expressed in the Assumption of Moses : 
"Eor the Heavenly One will arise from His royal throne 
And He will go forth from His holy habitation 

And His wrath will burn on account of His sons 
******** 

And the horns of the Sun will be broken and he shall be turned 

into darkness ; 
And the moon shall not give her light, and be turned wholly 

into blood 

And the circle of the stars shall be disturbed 
******** 

Eor the Most High will arise, the Eternal God alone, 
And He will appear to punish the Gentiles 
And He will destroy all their idols 
Then thou, Israel, shalt be happy 
And thou shalt mount upon the neck of the eagle 4 
And the days of thy mourning will be ended 
******** 

1 4 Esdras vi. 55-59 ; xv. 20, 21. 

2 Charles, Apocalypse of Baruch, chap, bmi 2-6. 

3 Charles, Book of Jubilees, chap, xv- 31, 32. 

4 I.e. the Roman Empire, 



y] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes 167 

And thou shalt look from on high and shalt see thy enemies in 

Gehenna, 

And thou shalt recognize them and rejoice 
And thou shalt give thanks and confess thy Creator 1 ." 

And in what has been called the Apocalypse of Salathiel, we 
hear that the righteous Jews will " have joy in seven ways " : 

" First of all they shall see with great joy the glory of him who 
receives them up, for they shall rest in seven orders. The first 
order because they have striven with great labour to overcome 
c the innate evil thought 2 ' which was fashioned together with 
them, that it might not lead them astray from life into death. The 
second order, because they see the round in which the souls of the 
ungodly wander and the punishment that awaits them 3 ." 

A comparison of the dates of these documents lends little 
support to the view that this hatred of the Gentiles was wrung 
from the Jews by oppression ; and there seems grounds for 
supposing that it had been present to their minds ever since 
their return from the Captivity 4 . Tacitus was certainly justified 
when he speaks of the nation as animated by bitter enmity 
against the rest of the human race 5 . 

How far the Essenes were responsible for the whole of this 
later literature, it is now impossible to say. Nearly every one 
of the books above quoted have been claimed as of Essene 
origin by some scholar or another 6 , and those who, like 

1 Charles, Assumption of Moses, chap. x. 3, 5, 7, 8, 10. 

2 Evidently a reminiscence of the Zoroastrian demon who is opposed to 
the Amshaspand Volra Mano or "Good Thought." See Chapter VLjnfra. 

3 4 Esdras vii. 91-93. 

4 The earliest document quoted is the part of the Book of Enoch which 
Prof. Charles considers was written between 166-1 61 B.C. ; the latest, the 
Fourth Book of Esdras, which he puts at 90 A.B. Yet he shows that the 
hatred of the Gentiles and the hope that they would be eternally destroyed 
or made slaves to Israel were present many centuries earlier and are to be 
found in the writings attributed to Ezekiel, Haggai, Joel, and Zachariah, 
as well as in Isaiah. Cl Grit. Hist. p. 160* 

6 Tacitus, Historia, Bk v. c. 5. 

6 Thus Jellinek, Ueher das Bitch der, Jubilaen und das Noah-Buch, 
Leipzig, 1855, passim, says that the Book of Jubilees is of Essene origin, 



168 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

Dr Charles, are inclined to reduce Essene influence upon them 
to a minimum, admit that considerable interpolations have 
been made in most of the documents by Essene hands. More- 
over, all those books which do not purport to be by Enoch 
himself either mention his name with peculiar reverence, or give 
the same account of celestial physics and other matters as the 
Ethiopic Book of Enoch, or quote it directly 1 . There seems, 
therefore, little doubt that all this literature came forth from 
the same school, and that it was directly or indirectly the result 
of Essene teaching. 

A point more difficult to determine is how the Essenes 
managed to reconcile their secret doctrines with the reverence 
for the Mosaic Law and its promulgator which they undoubtedly 
professed 2 . There is no direct evidence with regard to this 
save Philo's remark quoted above as to their allegorical inter- 
pretation of Scripture. This, too, may have had its origin in 
Orphic practice, for we know that the Orphics were accustomed 
to carry allegory so far as to both materialize their gods, as 
when they spoke of Bacchus as Wine, and to deify abstractions, 
as when they made hymns to Health, Peace and other abstract 
conceptions as if they were actual persons 3 . But besides this, 
the Essenes probably practised a mode of interpretation peculiar 
to themselves, which they kept secret or confined to members 
of the sect. Something of the kind was not unknown among the 
Greeks, for some of the Orphic gold plates found in Magna 

and Schmidt and Merx, Archiv fur ivissenschaftliche Erforschung des Alien 
Testaments, r. n. (1868) pp. 111-152, make the same claim for the Assump- 
tion of Moses and so on. For the Book of Enoch itself see above. 

1 For the quotations from Enoch in the Testament of the XII Patriarchs 
see Charles, Introduction to that book, p. lix ; for those in the Book of 
Jubilees see B. of J. pp. 13, 36, 37, 53, 62-64, 102, 134, 146, 150, 212, 
213 ; in the Apocalypse of Baruch, see A. of J5. p. 101 and notes ; in the 
Assumption of Moses, see A. of M. x. 4, 9. 

2 Josephus, ubi cit. in note 4 p. 151, supra, says ( 8) that they honoured 
the name of Moses next after that of God Himself ; and that any who 
blasphemed him was punished capitally. 

8 Of. Abel's Orphica, Fr. 160, 161, 162, 202, 203, 204. From the Orphics 
the practice passed into the Mysteries and the writings of the post- 
Christian Gnostics. See Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, 1888, pp. 69, 74-75. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes 169 

Graecia are intended to be read acrostically 1 , and the Graeco- 
Egyptian magic papyri contain many instances of a similar 
use of the Homeric poems by which they could be converted 
into an oracle or fortune-telling book 2 . By such means any 
document can of course be made to mean anything, and the 
Essenes seem to have added to this the practice of isopsephism 
or regarding words as equivalent in sense which had the same 
numerical value. The most familiar instance of this is in the 
Eevelation of St John where " the number of the Beast " is said 
to be " the number of a man ; and his number is six hundred 
threescore and six " ; or, in other words, Nero Caesar, whose 
name written in Hebrew letters is equivalent to the number 
given 3 . In like manner we read in the Book of Enoch, in the story 
of the sinning angels : 

" This is the -number of Kesbel, who showed the head of the oath 
to the holy ones when he dwelt high above in glory, and its name is 
Beqa. And this angel requested Michael to show him the hidden 
name, that they might mention it in the oath, so that those who 
revealed all that was hidden to the children of men might quake 
before that name and oath. And this is the power of that oath, 
for it is powerful and strong, and he placed this oath Akae in the 
hand of Michael 4 ." 

1 Like the Gold Plate of Caecilia Secundina, Chapter IV, p. 133, supra. 
So the Sibylline Oracles contain the acrostic IX8Y2 which covers the 
name and titles of Jesus, Kenan, V&glise Clvr&ienne, p. 535 and note. 
The Greeks must have caught the taste for such devices, for an acrostic 
is found in a treatise on astronomy by Eudoxos of Cnidos copied in the 
second cent. B.C. Many other instances are given by Brunet de Presle, Les 
Papyrus Grecs du Musde du Louvre, Paris, 1865, pp. 43, 44 He says with 
some reason that the practice was borrowed by the Greeks from the Jews. 

2 Kenyon, Gk. Pap. in . M., Papyrus CXXI, pp. 83 sqq. 

3 Hausrath, op. tit. pp. 114-116, where many other instances are given. 
The explanation of S Nero(n) Caesar " as the Number of the Beast is in 
fact as old as Irenaeus, who remarks that the variant 616 given in some 
texts is due to the omission of the final n in Latin. It does not seem to be 
seriously disputed by any modern theologian. Isopsephism however was 
not the invention of the Essenes, but of the Babylonians, among whom it 
was in use, to judge from Berossos, in the time of Alexander. See Alexander 
Polyhistor in Cory, Ancient Iragmefpts, 2nd ed. p. 25. 

* Charles, Boole of Enoch, chap. Ixix. 13-15. Cf. id., The Apoc. etc. of the 
O.T., IL p. 234, where he has made some verbal alterations in the reading. 



170 Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes [OH. 

From the context, it would appear that the words Akae and 
Bqa both cover the Tetragrammaton or four-lettered name 
of JHVH, by means of which omnific word it is said the 
heavens and earth were created 1 . The mysterious name of 
Taxo given in the Assumption of Moses as that of the pro- 
tagonist against Antiochus is doubtless to be interpreted in 
some such fashion 2 . 

Of the history of the Essenes as an organized sect, we know 
hardly anything. If we accept Josephus' account of their 
numbers as relating to his own time 3 , it would seem that they 
were flourishing at the date of the Destruction of the Temple 
under Titus. This event would probably affect them little 
directly, because, as we have seen; they took no part in the 
Temple worship ; and, scattered as they were through the 
villages of Palestine, they may easily have escaped the punish- 
ment meted out by the Eomans to those towns which were the 
strongholds of the rebellion. But it is extremely improbable 
that they can have survived the War of Extermination under 
Hadrian, when the partisans of the false Messiah kept up a 
futile resistance in the country as well as in the towns, and 
Hadrian's general, Severus, had in consequence to lay the land 
desolate 4 . Moreover, it is not improbable that the sect may 
have taken an active part in the Revolt, which they may easily 
have looked upon as the fulfilment of their Messianic hopes, 
and may thus have perished under the stern measures of 
repression which the fanaticism and barbarities of the rebels 
forced upon the conquerors. At any rate, we hear little more 
of the Essenes after this date. But the fantastic method of 
interpreting Scriptures which they practised and probably 
introduced, lingered long, and, after being used by the earliest 

1 Hausrath, op. et loc. cit. 

2 Charles, A. of M. chap. ix. 1, and the note beginning on p. 35, op. cit. 
Hausrath, op. cit. sup. pp. 116, 117, thinks the name is arrived at by the 
process called Atbash. 

8 If the authenticity of the Fragment quoted above from Philo could 
be established, it would seem probable that Josephus simply copied the 
figure from this last, and that 4000 was the number of the Essenes about 
20 A.D. 

4 Renan, l?$gli&e ChrMenne, p. 209. 



v] Pre-Christian Gnostics: the Essenes 171 

Christian writers 1 , was revived, as has been said, by the Cabalists 
of the Middle Ages, and has even survived into our own time. 
It was especially high in favour with those numerous bodies of 
heretics who in the first three centuries of our era asserted that 
knowledge was the one thing needful for salvation and were 
thus called, both by themselves and by their opponents the 
Fathers of the Church, by the generic and distinctive name of 
Gnostics 2 . 

1 Hausrath, op. cit. pp. 116, 117, for examples. By the method called 
Temura he gets Eomah hageddlah for Armageddon in the Canonical Apoca- 
lypse. So Justin Martyr, Cohort, c. xxiv. says that Moses is unintelligible 
without mystic insight, and that the name of Christ contains a hidden 
meaning (2nd Apol. c. vi.). 

2 Thus Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. Bk i. c. xn, 11, p. 146, Harvey, makes 
Marcus the heresiarch show that Alpha and Omega, the name given to 
Jesus [?] in Revelation, means the Dove which descended upon Him at 
His baptism, because it has the same numerical value (Treptcrrepa) of SOL 



CHAPTER VI 

PRE-CHRISTIAN GNOSTICS : SIMON MAGUS 

WE see, then, that the Bssenes, in spite of the quietism and 
love of peace that they professed, became in the long ran either 
the instigators of political revolt or, at best, the tools of those 
who thought to make use of the fanaticism excited by their 
teaching in order to throw off the yoke of the Gentiles. But 
these fanatics were almost exclusively the Jews of Judaea, 
whose adherence to their own institutions caused them to leave 
Babylon, where they were fairly well off, to be cooped up in a 
land which in no time can have yielded an easy subsistence to 
a large number of souls 1 . That people so circumstanced, con- 
fronted with a power vastly superior to their own, and resolutely 
bent on compelling its subjects to enter into its own system of 
orderly government, should have looked to rebellion and super- 
natural help as their sole means of escape, was only to be 
expected. But there were besides a great number of Jews 
dispersed among the heathen, who had succeeded in acquiring 
vast wealth together with the power which wealth brings with 
it ; and these were by no means inclined to upset the settled 
order of things which the rise of the Eoman Empire had brought 
into the East. To the humble fisherman, vinedresser or hus- 
bandman of Judaea, daily vexed and harassed by the Eoman 
tax-gatherer and Eoman police measures, the Eoman peace, 
the freedom from foreign conquest, and the higher standard of 

1 The fanaticism of the Palestinian. Jews in time affected their co- 
religionists elsewhere, as when the Jews in Asia Minor rebelled and com- 
mitted atrocities in the reign of Trajan. See Morrison, Jews under 
Roman Rule, p. 191, and Renan, Les Svangites, Paris, 1877, p. 503. 
Probably such outbreaks were condemned by those of the nation who had 
anything to lose, as was certainly the case during the Revolt under Hadrian. 



OH. vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 173 

comfort that came in with the legions, must have appeared far 
less desirable than they did to the rich trader of Alexandria, 
Caesarea, or Damascus, whose aptness in taking advantage of 
the foibles of his rulers had enabled him to imitate their luxury 
and in some cases to share their power 1 . Yet, with the tenacity 
peculiar to their nation, even these rich Jews outside Palestine, 
while adopting gladly enough the material benefits of the 
Graeco-Eoman civilization, clung firmly to the one exclusively 
national possession which remained to them, the Law of Moses 
with all its observances. They were, however, quite sharp 
enough to see that the rules laid down for the conduct of a 
loosely- compacted mass of nomad tribes suddenly flung among 
hostile neighbours were unfitted to a more settled civilization ; 
and the thinkers among them were put to much pains to discover 
some means by which they could claim their share of Hellenistic 
culture without ceasing to be Jews 2 . At first this generally 
took the form of pseudonymous writings bearing the name of 
some author respected by the Greeks, and designed to prove 
that all the Hellenistic arts, sciences, and doctrines were derived 
from the Hebrew patriarchs. Thus, verses were ascribed to 
Orpheus and the Sibyl, and historical works to Hecataeus of 
Abdera and a certain Aristaeus, having for their object the 
praise of the Jewish nation, which were certainly not written 
by the authors whose names were appended to them. So 
Artapanus' book " On the Jews " claimed that the Egyptians 
were indebted to the Hebrews for all they knew, including even 
the worship of their gods, and that this went back to the days 
of Abraham, who availed himself of his stay in Egypt to teach 
astrology to the Pharaoh of his time 3 . 

History, however, was at all times much less to the taste of 
the Jews than metaphysics, and the many teachers of philosophy 

1 Morrison, op. tit. p. 375 ; Mahafiy, Greek Life and Thought, 1887, 
pp. 468-482 ; Greek World under Roman Sway, 1890, p, 47. 

2 Schiirer, History of the Jewish People, Eng. ed. n. pp. 157, 158. One 
of the best proofs of this tendency is the fashion among all classes of 
Jews at this period of giving their children Greek names. See Mahaffy, 
Greek Life and Thought, p. 480. Even among the Apostles we have 
Andrew and Philip. 

8 Schiirer, op. cit. n, pp. 206, 306, 309 ; Morrison, op. tit. p. 395. 



174 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

scattered through, the Hellenistic world found in them eager 
scholars, who were willing to listen respectfully to any doctrine, 
so long as it could be shown to be not inconsistent with their 
national religion and traditions. The most sincere attempt 
thus to combine Hellenic and Jewish teaching that has come 
down to us is that of Philo of Alexandria, who wrote probably 
shortly after the Birth of Christ. In his system 1 , God is unde- 
finable and has no qualities that can be perceived by man. As 
He is absolutely perfect, He cannot come into contact with 
matter, and all His dealings with it must therefore be conducted 
through intermediate beings. These intermediate beings are 
the powers or attributes of God, inconsistently, as Zeller points 
out, figured by Philo " as at once independent hypostases and 
immanent determinations of the Divine existence 2 ." All the 
Divine Powers are summed up in the Logos or Word of God, 
who is not only their chief but their source, and the great 
intermediary between God and the universe. He is neither 
unbegotten nor begotten after the manner of finite things, but 
is the vicegerent and ambassador of God, who constantly makes 
intercession for the world. As for man, his soul is itself nothing 
but one of those powers of God which in another state of 
existence are called angels or daemons, and it is his material 
body which is the source of all evil, and the prison of the soul. 
Man can only free himself from this by resisting the allurements 
of the senses, which God puts it into his heart to do. By such 
resistance, he can exceptionally and occasionally acquire such 
virtue that, even in this life, he may attain to the Divine Vision, 
when he will be " lifted above and out of himself," and the Spirit 
^of God will henceforth dwell in him and " stir him like the 
strings of a musical instrument. ' ' In the ordinary way, however, 

1 Schurer, op. cit. n. pp. 369-380, following, as he tells us, ZeUer, gives 
an excellent and coherent account of PMlo's system, which see. As Schurer 
points out (op. cit. n. p. 368), Philo " hellenized " so thoroughly that 
practically the only Judaic elements in his system are the assertion of 
monotheism, a contempt for image- worship, and the claim that the Jews 
possessed through the Mosaic revelation the highest religious knowledge. 

2 Schiirer, o$. tit. n. p. 372. For a definition of hypostasis in this 
connection and its original equivalence to ovcrt'a and substantia (as in the 
Quicunque vuti), see Hatch, Hibbert Lectures, 1888, p. 275. 



vi] Pre-Christian G-no sties: Simon Magus 175 

his emancipation will only take place when Ms soul returns to 
its original incorporeal condition, a reward which is bestowed on 
those who have kept themselves free from attachment to this 
sensuous body 1 . 

That people holding tenets so far removed from anything in 
the Law and the Prophets should form themselves into small 
sects or societies 2 and take other means for their propagation is 
only natural, and no doubt many such sects of which we have 
lost all trace existed in secret among the Hellenizing Jews at 
the beginning of the Christian era 3 . Such a sect were probably 
the Sethiani described by Hippolytus, whose " entire system," 
according to the author of the PhilosopJiumena, was derived 
from " the ancient theologians Musaeus, Linus, and Orpheus, 
who elucidates especially the ceremonies of initiation as well 
as the Mysteries themselves 4 ." So far as Hippolytus explains 
their system, which he appears to have very imperfectly under- 
stood, it set forth three principles, which he calls " Light, 
Darkness, and an intermediate one which is Spirit " ; but all 
the passages quoted from the " Paraphrase of Seth," which he 
declares to be the work of the sect in question, refer for their 
authority to the Old Testament, which it is evident the Sethiani 
received as a real revelation 5 . But the one of these half- Jewish 

1 Were those who did not attain to this height in Philo's opinion 
annihilated or re-incarnated ? His view that for the wicked this life is the 
real hell (De congr. erud. grot. ax) would suit either theory ; but in de 
Cherub. i. it is plain that he contemplates the eternal punishment of the 
damned. 

2 Secret, not from the jealous motive of the Gnostics, hut because if their 
opinions had become generally known they would have been cast out of the 
synagogue. 

3 So Benan, Les Svangiles, p. 452. It is quite possible that the sect of 
the Essenes may have included many divisions. 

4 Hippolytus, PMlosopbumena, Bk v. c. 3, p. 218, Cruice. 

6 M. de Faye is probably right in saying (&ude Critique des Documents 
du Qnosticisme Chr&ien, Paris, 1913, pp. 352, 353) that the Sethiani were 
never a very important sect. Stahelin's theory (Die Qnoslischen Quellen 
Hippolyts, Leipzig, 1890) that Hippolytus was deceived by a forger who 
drew all his " heresies " from one document (see Chapter VII, infra) is too 
fantastic to be correct, but it has done good service in calling attention to 
the family likeness between most of the systems which he sketches. Of. 



176 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

half-Gentile sects of which we have the most detailed account 
is that which passed under the name of Simon Magus, whom 
the Fathers of the Church were unanimous in describing as the 
parent and origin of all later Gnosticism 1 . 

This Simon, the New Testament describes as a man who 
had formerly "used sorcery, and bewitched the people of 
Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one : to whom 
all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying ' This man 
is the great power of God 2 '." The author of the Acts then 
goes on to say that Simon " believed " and was baptized by 
Philip, and that when Peter and John came from Jerusalem to 
Samaria, " he offered them money saying : Give me also this 
power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the 
Holy Ghost." It is from this offer, which seems to betray a 
desire to set up a Church of his own, that his name, curiously 
enough, has since been associated in ecclesiastical law with the 
ofience of buying and selling benefices or cures of souls 3 . Of 
Simon's future career, however, the Acts of the Apostles tell 
us nothing save that he left Peter with the request for the 
Apostle's prayers on his behalf. It is evident, from the text 
quoted above, that both Simon's sorceries and his acclamation 
by the people as " the great power of God " took place before 
his conversion to Christianity, whether this was real or feigned. 
Hence, Simon must have been at the time already the leader of 
a school or sect, and as the events narrated are in the same 
book set out before the Conversion of St Paul and his preaching 
to the Gentiles, this sect must have been a pre-Christian one 4 . 
E. de Faye, Intro, & FJ&. du QnosL, Paris, 1903, p. 68. We are not likely 
to reach any more definite conclusion unless some lucky discovery reveals 
to us the sources of Hippolytus' compilation. 

* Irenaeus, Bk i. c. 16, p. 191, Harvey ; Hippolytus, Philosophumena, 
Bk VL c. 20, p. 267, Cruice; Augustine, de Haeres. lib. cc. I., n., in.; 
Praedestinatus, de Haer. Bk i. c. 1 ; Pseudo-Tertullian, adv. omn. Haer. 
c. i. etc. 

2 Acts viii 9, 10. 

3 From the story in Acts, it appears that what Simon tried to buy was 
the power of ordination. The offence in modern ecclesiastical jurisprudence 
seems to be the obtaining the priestly office by purchase rather than by 
merit or gift. 

4 Of, Am61ineau, Gnosticisme &jyptien 9 p. 51. 



vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 177 

That this sect was also one of those which sought to reconcile 
Judaism with Hellenism seems antecedently probable. Samaria 
had been stripped of a great part of its former inhabitants by 
Alexander the Great and Ptolemy Soter, who had colonized it 
by " Macedonian " settlers, probably of Syrian blood 1 . These 
colonists had accepted without difficulty the religious reforms 
of Antiochus Epiphanes, and had offered that king, according 
to Josephus, to dedicate their temple on Mt Gerizim to Zeus 
Hellenios 2 . Later, on the death of Antiochus, John Hyrcanus, 
the ethnarch or high-priest of the Jews, on the same authority, 
" revolted from the Macedonians," invaded Samaria, besieged 
its chief city and, when he gained possession of it, entirely de- 
molished it 3 . Gabinius, when proconsul of Syria, rebuilt this 
and other cities which had been destroyed by the Jews, and 
Herod the Great about 25 i$.c. restored and beautified it while 
renaming it Sebaste in honour of Augustus 4 . These events had 
intensified the hatred already existing between the Jews and the 
Samaritans, and this was not 'diminished by the possession by 
the latter of the Mt Gerizim temple which was in some sort the 
rival of that of Jerusalem 5 . To judge from its later develop- 
ments, the religion of the Samaritans at the beginning of the 
Christian era retained little of Judaism besides a reverence for 
the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses 6 , and its other elements 
were apparently Greek. We should therefore expect to find 
in Simon's teaching before his meeting with the Apostles, a 
leaning towards *a mixed religion in which Greek elements 
played the chief part, although the sanction attached to it 
might be Jewish. 

1 Morrison, op. tit. p. 351. Cowley in Cheyne's Encyclopaedia Biblica, 
s.v. Samaritans* omits this ; but see Josephus, Ant. Bk xn. c. 2, 1. 

2 Josephus, op. tit. Bk xn. c. 5, 1. 
8 Ibid. op. cit. Bk xm. c. 10, 3. 

* Ibid. op. cit. Bk xv. c. 9, 5. 

6 " Neither at Jerusalem, nor on this mountain [Gerizim] shall men 
worship the Father," John iv. 21. 

6 Cowley in JSncyc. Bibl. s.v. Samaritans, col. 4260. According to 
Renan, Les $vangiles, p. 451, the Samaritans at the beginning of our era 
were divided into a great number of sects, all more or less attached to 
Simon. The authorities he quotes are, however, too late to establish this 
satisfactorily. 

I,. 12 



178 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

Such, an expectation is abundantly justified by the evidence 
of post- Apostolic writers. The documents known as the Cle- 
mentine Homilies and Recognitions are now generally admitted 
to be a kind of religious novel or romance composed for edifica- 
tion, and no consensus of opinion exists as to their date, which 
has been taken by many learned critics as ranging from the 
ist to the ivth century A.D. 1 They set forth with much detail 
how Simon, after his first meeting with St Peter in Samaria, 
everywhere opposed the chief of the Apostles, and followed 
him about on many of his journeys, disputing with him at 
great length, until finally put to flight by the superior dialectic 
of Peter 2 . The Apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul, which seem 
to be either wholly or in part earlier than 275 A.B., further 
narrate that Simon attempted to convert to his heresy the 
Emperor Nero, by flying over the Campus Martius at Rome in 
a car drawn by demons ; but was vanquished by St Peter, who 
by a solemn adjuration caused him to fall violently to the earth 
and thus to perish miserably 3 . This story became later the 
universal tradition of the Catholic Church. All the patristic 
writers agree that Simon Magus was accompanied in his 
missionary journeys by a woman of immoral life whom he 
called the Ennoia or Thought of God, and declared to be a 
reincarnation of Helen of Troy 4 , while one of the Clementine 
documents makes her, together with Simon, to have been 



1 The question was discussed and resolved, as far as it could be in the then 
state of our information, by Salmon in Smith's Dictionary of Christian 
Biography, s.v. Clementines. Mgr. Duchesne, Early History of the Christian 
Church, Eng. ed< 1909, p. 96, n. 2, sums up in favour of their ultimate 
derivation from the Preaching of Peter composed at the end of the nnd or 
beginning of mrd cent. He thinks the Clementines orthodox save for a 
slight Arian tendency. 

2 So Theodoret ; but this was a common form in the patristic accounts 
of such disputes. It is repeated in the dispute of Archelaus with Manes, 
mentioned in Chapter XIII, infra, which see. 

3 See Tischendorfs edition, passim. The age of the book may be 
guessed by its containing the Quo Vadis story quoted by Origen. 

4 Irenaeus, Bk I. c. 16, p. 191, Harvey ; Hippolytus, Bk vi. c. 1, 19, 
p. 264, Cruice; Epiphanius, Panar, Bk L; Haer. XXL c. 2 (p. 125 of 
Oehler's vol. n. pt. 1). 



vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 179 

among the followers of John the Baptist 1 . There is no external 
corroboration of either story ; and such accusations of im- 
morality were too frequently bandied about between the early 
Christians and their adversaries for any particular weight to 
be laid upon them 2 . Nor need the latest G-erman theory, that 
Simon Magus is in the Clementine literature but a pseudonym 
for St Paul as the supposed opponent of St Peter, be discussed 
here 3 . 

The first writer who gives us any authoritative account 
of Simon's pre-Christian teaching is Hippolytus, who in his 
PhilosopJiumena quotes freely from a book which he attributes 
to Simon and calls the Great Announcement*. Whether this 
be really Simon's work or no, its quotation in the Philoso- 
phumena at least proves that a sect bearing his name existed 
in the sub- Apostolic age, and that they held the doctrines set 
forth in Hippolytus' quotations from this document, which can 
hardly have been due to anyone else in the first instance than 
Simon himself 5 . In the Great Announcement the First Cause of 

1 Clementine Homilies, n. o. 23. 

2 Maroion and Marcus, both, leaders of Gnostic sects, were both, accused 
by the Catholics of seduction, while the Pagans naturally put the worst 
construction on the intimacy existing between confessors and martyrs and 
their converts, as is evidenced by the story of Paul and Thekla. 

3 This seems to have been first set on foot by Baur and the Tubingen 
school, and has lately been revived by Schmiedel in the Encyc. Bibl s.v. 
Simon Magus. Even if we were to admit that it was well founded with 
regard to the Okmentines, it would not get rid of the testimony of the Acts 
and of Justin Martyr that Simon Magus had an actual historical existence. 

* 'ATTQipaffis fju-yahrj* "Declaration" would perhaps be a better trans- 
lation of the word ; but that given in the text is the one used by most 
writers on the subject. 

5 Simon's authorship of the book has been defended by Renan (Les 
Apdtres, Paris, 1866, p. 267 and note) and attacked by many other writers. 
Salmon, op. cit., Schmiedel, op. tit., and Stock in the Encyclopaedia Britan- 
nica (last edition), s.v. Simon Magus, aver that there were two Simons, one 
the personage of the Acts, and the other, a Gnostic leader of the iind cent, 
to whom or to whose followers the Great Announcement is to be attributed. 
This theory, although attractive, would prove too much ; for Justin Martyr, 
himself a Samaritan, has no doubt that Simon the heresiarch is the Simon 
of the Acts, and if he is wrong in this, a matter which may well have been 
within his own personal knowledge, Hippolytus is our best and earliest 

authority for Simon's doctrines. 

12 2 



180 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

all things is declared to be fire, on the strength of the statement 
in Deuteronomy that " God is a burning and consuming fire 1 ." 
This Infinite or Boundless Power, as he calls it, Simon held to 
be not simple biit two-fold, having two natures, a hidden and a 
manifold one, so intermingled that " the hidden one is concealed 
in the manifest, and the manifest comes into being from the 
hidden one," by which, as we shall see later, he meant male and 
female. The manifest, again, can be perceived by the senses 
like things with an actual existence, while the hidden nature 
can only be apprehended by the mind, or in other words imagined. 
In all this he seems at first sight to be echoing, as Hippolytus 
points out 2 , the notions of Plato upon the Intelligible (TO 
voyrov) and the Sensible (TO alffOijTov), those of Aristotle on 
Power or Potentiality (Svva/us) and Actual Existence (Ivepyeta), 
and, as Hippolytus does not say, those of Philo upon the First 
Cause and the Logos 3 . The Cosmos or ordered universe came 
into being, Simon goes on to say, from the unbegotten or self- 
existent fire, by means of six "Boots" called respectively 
Mind (Nou?) and Thought ("Ezwota) 4 , Voice (<J>ftn?) and Name 
( v Oi/o/*a), Reason (Ao7*o>td?) and Desire ( 9 En>0vM<m). Although 
it is not here formally stated, it is noteworthy that this is a 
system of couples or pairs, the name of one of each of the above 
pairs being masculine and the other feminine 5 . In these six, 

1 Dent. iv. 24. 

2 Hippolytus, op. cit. Bk vi. c. 1, 9, p. 247, Cruice. 

3 As when he says that the Logos is not God, but Ms reflection. See 
Philo, de Somn. i. 41 (p. 656 of Mangey). '" Just as those who cannot gaze 
upon the sun may yet gaze upon a reflection of it." Cf. Hatch, H. L p. 248. 

4 Irenaeus and Epiphanius (where before quoted) both call this second 
partner in the first pair of " Boots '* "Ewoia. Hippolytus, op. cit. Bk vi. 
c. 1, 13, p- 251, Cruice, has 'E-rriWa. Does this mean " after-thought " 
or " second thought " as showing her posteriority to Nous ? At any rate 
it is some indication that be is copying from a different source than that 
of his predecessors. King (Gnostics and their Remains, 2nd ed. p. 61) would 
translate 'Ev0v/7<rtt by " thought," while he calls *Bz>voia " Intelligence." 
The Abbd Cruice translates 'J&vBvwo-is " Conceptio." It seems here to mean 
Desire not in a fleshly but a mental sense. 

5 The names of "Qvopa and $vr) are placed in the reverse order to the 
others, inasmuch as in this pair the feminine comes first. This is curious 
because in the same section they are compared to the Sun and Moon, the* 
sex of which is transposed in several mythologies. 



vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 181 

Simon imagined that the Boundless Power existed potentially, 
but not actually, that is to say, that each of them represented 
one particular aspect or quality under which the Supreme Being 
might be considered, but had no existence apart from Him, 
while it required the addition together of all the six to make 
up His entire being, A similar conception seems to underlie 
the Zoroastrian idea of the six Amshaspands, from which it is 
likely enough that Simon copied this part of his system 1 . It is 
here that we meet for the first time in Gnosticism with the idea 
of emanation or the flowing-forth of the Divine nature, which 
differs entirely from that of creation, whether e nihilo or from 
pre-existing matter, inasmuch as the emanation still remains 
connected with the parent source and never forms an entity 
distinct from it 2 . 

We see, then, that in Simon's system, the primal world was 
a hebdomad or consisted of seven Powers, being the three pairs 
of Boots enumerated above together with a seventh, their 
source, in whom^they were all summed up 3 . But after this, 
and apparently created by it, is a second or intermediate world, 
as to which the Great Announcement thus expresses itself : 

1 The names of the Amshaspands of Zoroaster are, Vohu Mano, or Good 
Mind, and Asha Vahishta, or Truth ; Khshathra, Vairya, or Bight Law, 
and Spent Armaiti, or Wisdom ; Haurvetat, or Good Health, and Ameretat 
or Immortality. The likeness between this and Simon's system has been 
noticed by, among others, Harvey the editor of Irenaeus, in his Introduction 
to that author, pp. Ixv sqq. For the resemblance between post-exilic 
Judaism and Zoroastrianism, see Cheyne, Jewish Religious Life, pp. 157J 
210, 251, 257 sqq. But see p. 197, infra. 

2 Emanation is well denned by Mallet (Quite de Neit & Sate, Paris, 1888, 
pp. 212, 213) as " a perpetual flowing-forth, which does not imply any 
effort, and which consequently neither exhausts nor even diminishes the 
productive principle." Emanations, however, he goes on to say, become 
weaker and less perfect the further they get from their first source. The 
first mention I can find of the word is in Plutarch (de. Is. et Os. c, XLIX.) 
who says that the visible Cosmos is " the flowing forth (arropporj) and 
displayed image of Osiris." 

8 Curiously enough, the author of the Clementine Homilies adopts this 
notion for orthodoxy, when he makes St Peter (XVTL c. 9) declare that God 
possesses six " extensions " having the nature of six infinites and that He 
with them makes up the " mystery of the hebdomad." 



182 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

" Unto you therefore I say what I say, and write what I write. 
The writing is this. There are two stocks of all the Aeons put 
together, having neither beginning nor end, springing from one Koot, 
the which is Power-Silence, invisible, incomprehensible (aKaraXyTrros) 1 . 
Of which two stocks, one appears above, which is a great Power, the 
Mind of the universes, which pervades all things, and is male : the 
other [appears] below, a great Thought, is female, and gives birth to 
all things. Thus, these, corresponding to one another 2 , form a pair 
(<ruuyia), and show forth the Middle Space (Siacm^a), an incom- 
prehensible air having neither beginning nor end. In this is the 
Father who sustains (0acrrafa>v) all things and nourishes all those 
things which have a beginning and end 3 . This is he who standeth, 
hath stood, and shall stand 4 , being both a male and female power 
after the likeness of the pre-existing Boundless Power 5 , which has 
neither beginning nor end, but exists in Oneness (Movonys). For 
the Thought which came forth from the power in Oneness became 
two 6 . And each of them was one. For he, when he contained her 
within himself, was alone, nor was he the first, although he existed 
before, but having appeared from himself, a second came into being. 
But he was not called Father before [Thought] had named him 
Father. Just as, then, he drawing forth himself from himself 

1 I.e. "which cannot be grasped," "intangible," as in the Athanasian 
Creed. 

2 avTurroixc'o " set over against each other." It seems to be a term 
used in logic. 

3 This is not the Supreme Father, but the Logos or his representative in 
the world succeeding his. It is with this being that Simon according to 
the author of the Clementines (Horn. n. c. 24) identified himself. 

4 "O eorofe, <rrd$, a-Trjo-ofievof. This seems to be the expression which 
the author of the Canonical Apocalypse is trying to reach in his fearful 
solecism ano o &v /cat 6 tfv KOL 6 px6fj.vo$. See Revelation i 4. 

5 So the Supreme Being of Simon is androgyne. 

6 The difficulty in deducing both male and female divinities from a 
male or sexless Supreme being has led to some strange mythology. The 
Egyptians cut the knot in an effective if coarse way. " Thus from one 
god I became three gods," says the Egyptian deity "the Lord of the 
Universe," in his account of the Creation. See Budge, " Papyrus of Nesi- 
Amsu," and Egyptian Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, pp. xiii, xiv 
and 14, 15. Was the author of the Apophasis acquainted with this story ? 
The Clementines make Simon's associates Egyptians or rather Alexandrians. 
See Clem. Horn. Bk iv. c. 6. 



vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 183 

manifested to himself Ms own Thought, so the same Thought when 
sne a PP eare( * &d not create him, but, beholding him, concealed the 
Father, that is to say, Power, within herself, and [thus] there exists 
a male-and-female (i.e. hermaphrodite) Power-and-Thought. For 
Power does not in any way differ from Thought, they being one. 
Without the things which are above is found Power ; without those 
which are below, Thought. Thus, there is that, also, which appeared 
from them, the which being one is found to be two, a male-and-female 
containing the female within itself. This one is Mind in Thought ; 
for they, being one when undivided (dxwpto-To?) from one another, 
are [yet] found to be Two 1 ." 

This statement seems at first to be merely an explanation 
and recitation of what has been previously said as to the emana- 
tion of the " Eoots " from the Boundless Power, and by no 
means justifies the words of the Great Announcement in which 
it is magniloquently proclaimed to be " the Book of the Show- 
ing-forth of Voice and Name from the Thought of the Great 
Boundless Power. Wherefore it will be sealed up and hidden 
and veiled and will rest in the habitation wherein the root of the 
worlds is established (tfe/^eXtoo)) 2 ." But when we examine the 
words just quoted by the light of the other systems said to be 
derived from Simon's, we see that they really indicate the belief 
of the author in a succession of worlds, wherein every later or 
lower one is a reflection, as in a glass, of that which was above 
it 3 . These lower worlds, like the primal one, should each 
contain three pairs of " Boots," emanating from one source 
like rays from a lamp or other source of light. It also seems that 
this source is, alike in the primal world and its successors, in 
itself potentially both male and female, that is to say, the 
female nature, which alone has the power of conception or 
producing new beings, was originally concealed within the other 
as a thought is concealed within the mind, and only becomes 

1 Hippolytus, op. tit. Bk vx. c. 1, 18, pp. 261, 262, Graice. 

3 Op. cit. Bk vi. c. 1, 9, p. 246, Cruioe. 

3 Am61ineau, Gnosticisme lUgyptiem, p. 39, makes this perfectly clear. 
Of. Ad. Franck, " L Gnosticisme iSgyptien " in Journal des Savants, Avril, 
1888, pp. 212, 213. Hatch (H.L. p. 205) points out that it is the doctrine 
of " Philo and the Platcmists." 



184 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

comprehensible when utterance is given to it. Hence each, of 
these Powers or, as Simon here calls them for the first time, 
aeons, like the Supreme Being, has a double aspect. Seen from 
below, that is to say, as it appears to the aeon which succeeds 
it, it is female, that is to say, a source of being. To that which 
is above it, or earlier in emanation, it is male, that is to say, it 
is the cause of conception, and also the sustainer and director 
at once of the conceiver and of that which she conceives 1 . 

Why now did Simon, or whoever wrote under his name, use 
such obscure and at first sight unintelligible terms for his 
speculations on the nature of the Supreme Being and the origin 
of the world ? Simply, it would seem, that he might reconcile 
two things which like certain chemicals found themselves in 
presence of each other without any affinity for combination. 
These were the Mosaic Law which, since the Captivity, both 
Jew and Samaritan held themselves bound to treat as divinely 
inspired 2 , and the Greek " theological " ideas which then per- 
vaded the whole civilized world and were at the time accepted 
by all educated men who thought about such subjects in much 
the same way as are in these days the conclusions of physical 
science 3 . This forced him and others who attempted to found 
a religion acceptable to both Jew and Greek, to use language 
which could be interpreted in their own sense by either. His 
Supreme Being is One, as Israel declared that her God was One, 
but, by a not immodest metaphor, he contains within himself 

1 As will be seen later, the post- Christian Gnostics of the nnd cent, 
generally attributed the existence of evil to the escape of one of the syzygies 
from the control of her spouse and her consequent fall into matter. See 
Chapter VIII, infra. 

2 The excessive reverence of the Samaritans for the Pentateuch is well 
brought out by Cowley in the JSncyc* Bill. s.v. Samaritans. He says it was 
the only part of the Jewish books which they took over and held sacred 
(col. 4260). Simon in the Great Announcement thought it necessary to 
"explain" each of the Five Books separately. See Hippolytus, op. cit, 
Bk vi. o. 1, 15, 16, pp. 253-258, Cruice. 

3 Throughout all the philosophical and religious literature of the time, 
it seems to have been sufficient to quote " Orpheus and the other theolo- 
gists " to command a hearing. See Clement of Alexandria, passim, for 
examples. 



YI] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 185 

the power of becoming both male and female, as Adonis, or Attis, 
or Dionysos, or, to take the mythological person he most 
resembles, the Orphic Phanes, was both male and female 1 . 
Simon also goes out of his way to affirm that his first syzygy or 
pair, Mind and Thought, are in the second world called Heaven 
and Earth, and thus forms a pretty close parallel to the Orphic 
couple Uranos and Ge 2 . But he is careful to mix with this 
explanations which shall also accord with the account of 
creation given in the Book of Genesis, He who standeth, hath 
stood, and will stand, i.e. the Eternal Being who is not liable 
to fall or corruption, and is the " Father " of the " Middle 
Space " is no less the "I am that I am" of Exodus than the 
Father of gods and men of Homer. So, too, his companion 
from the beginning, called Silence, because she has no inde- 
pendent existence until he gives utterance to his thought, 
resembles the Nux or Night of Orpheus from whom Phanes 
begot Heaven and Earth ; but she is also, as Simon expressly 
says, the Spirit of God which moved over the face of the waters 
in the Mosaic account of the Creation 3 . If, again, Simon makes 
his first pair of " Boots " in the second world Heaven and 
Earth, his second pair, Voice and Name, he declares to be 
equivalent to the SUB and Moon, and his third, Reason and 
Desire, to Air and Water 4 . This, he expressly says, is because 
the Book of Genesis says that three clear days elapsed before 
the Sun and Moon came into being, and these three " days " 
are an allusion to the Boundless Power and the first pair Mind 
and Thought 5 . To a much greater extent than Philo, therefore, 
Simon uses the religious traditions of both Greeks and Hebrews 
to give sanction to his own speculations. 

The use of the word aeon, which our English Testament 
translates " age " (saeculum) as the generic name of the six 
Boots or Powers reflected in the second universe, seems also 
to have peculiar signification in this connection. Among the 

1 See Chapter IV, p. 123, supra. 

a See especially Fr, 239 ia Abel's OrpMca. 

3 Hippolytus, op. cit. Bk vi. c. 1, 14, pp. 252, 253, Cruice. 

* Ibid. Bk vi. o. 1, 13, pp. 251, 252, Craice. 

5 Ibid. loc. cit. Cf. Am&ineau, Qnost. tg. p. 39. 



186 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

Greeks, Hesiod sang of a golden age, succeeded by others of 
silver, of brass, of one unnamed metal, and finally one of iron ; 
and the Orphics, working after their manner on older materials, 
assigned the first of these ages to their god Phanes, and the 
others to Night, Uranos, Kronos, and Zeus in succession, 
asserting that the last age would be that of Dionysos 1 . The 
use of the word by Simon seems to show that he conceived his 
emanations or " Roots " as succeeding one another and perhaps 
depending from one another like the links of a chain. But 
as he had already personified these emanations, we have the 
curious result that he considered them both as persons or, to 
be more accurate, aspects of the Deity and spaces of time. 
For was this all The great spread given to the Chaldaean 
star-worship throughout the East by the events described in 
Chapter III above, had caused the stars to be accepted by every 
nation in the Hellenist world as the most convenient types of 
divinity 2 . The planets, including in that phrase the Sun and 
Moon, were all known by the names of the most important 
gods in the various pantheons of all the nations of antiquity, 
and were thought in some not very clearly defined way to be 
identified with the divinities whose names they bore 3 . Even 
before the time of Alexander, the Platonic cosmogony had made 
of the stars and planets habitations where the souls of men 
were supposed to rest on their way to mortal bodies 4 ; and 
Philo, while admitting that the stars were the rulers of earthly 

1 Abel's Orphica, pp. 186, 254, 255. 

2 " The visible and generated Gods." So Alcmaeon of Crotona and 
Xenocrates both call stars and planets gods. See Clem. Alex. Protrept. 
c. vi. ; Plato, Timaeus, c. xv. The prophets of the Jews, indeed, blamed 
their co-religionists for " worshipping the sun towards the east " as Ezekiel 
saw them doing in the Temple, or for " serving all the host of heaven " as 
Jeremiah says the inhabitants of Jerusalem did; but their reproaches 
make it plain that the bulk of the nation were in this respect like their 
Gentile neighbours. 

3 So Clem. Alex. Strom. Bk vi. c. 13, says the worship of the sun, moon, 
and stars was instituted, so that the nations might not become utterly 
godless. 

4 See Bouchc'-Leclercq, U Astrologie grecque, Paris, 1899, p. 21, for 
references. 



vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 187 

things, could do no more than remind his readers that they 
were not independent rulers, but only viceroys of Yahweh 1 . 
Hence Simon, when he called three of his aeons by the names of 
Earth, Sun, and Moon, made them places or worlds as well as 
persons and periods of time. It was an extraordinary complica- 
tion of ideas from which none of the Gnostics who followed Mm 
succeeded in entirely freeing themselves 2 . 

To return, however, to Simon's system of emanations. 
Have we any right to consider that the Heaven and Earth, Sun 
and Moon, and Water and Air, with which he peopled his second 
universe, were those which are perceptible by our senses, or did 
he regard them as existing above our ken and as merely the 
patterns which were in their turn reflected into our universe ? 
Hippolytus unfortunately breaks off his quotations from the 
Great Announcement at this point, and his own report of Simon's 
doctrines is neither lucid nor implicitly to be trusted. Irenaeus, 
however, writing half a century before Hippolytus, declares 
that it was the female aeon Thought, whom we have seen is 
equivalent in the second or intermediate world to G-e or Earth, 
" who, comprehending the wish of the Father, descended to 
the lower regions, and there produced angels and the lower 
authorities (al fcd-rv egovcriai) who made the universe (/eoV/xo?) 3 ." 
If we believe, as seems most probable, that Simon carried his 
theory of the lower world being a reflection of the upper through- 
out all existing things, it follows that the second world, contain- 
ing as we have seen Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon, and 

1 Philo, de Monarch. Bk I. c. 1. 

2 Except perhaps Marcion. But we have so little literature remaining 
which, can with any certainty be attributed to the Marcionites that we 
cannot speak with any certainty as to his phraseology. In his treatise 
against the Valentinians (c. xx.) Tertullian gibes at that sect for " thinking 
the different heavens intelligent, and for making angels of them." 

Irenaeus, Bk I. c. 16, 2, p. 192, Harvey. Theodoret, Haer. Fab. 
BkL c. 5, echoes the statement, and Hippolytus, Bk vr. c. 1, 19, p. 263, 
Cruice, gives what is probably the original Greek of Irenaeus. Hatch, 
H. L. pp. 185, 186, points out that Philo held not only that the angels 
were God's instruments in making the worlds, but the patterns after which 
they were made. Of. Philo, de Monarch. Bk n. c. 6. 



188 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

Air and Water together with " the Father " in whom the six 
were contained, was the pattern or paradigmatic world which 
was reflected in the lower universe to which we belong. In this 
case it is probable that the six " Eoots " again changed their 
generic name, and after having been called powers (Svvdpeis) 
in the primal world, and aeons in the second, were now desig- 
nated angels and authorities. If this conjecture is right, we 
have here a parallel to the chain of being fabled by the Orphics 
which, beginning with the gods, descended through demi-gods, 
heroes, and demons down to men. An accurate knowledge of the 
different ranks of this supramundane hierarchy was, as has been 
said, of great importance for magical purposes such as exorcism, 
and its description occupied a great part of the Enochian 
literature 1 . 

Simon, however, had still to account for the creation of man 
and the part which he played in the scheme of the universe, 
His reverence for Moses prevented him from directly contra- 
dicting the statement in Genesis that Yabweh " formed man out 
of the dust of the ground," and this he echoes in the words of 
the Septuagint, which speaks of God moulding (eVXao-e) man 
by " taking dust (x<>v$) from the Earth (F^)." The part here 
played by the Yahweh of Genesis he transfers to " the Father " 
of his second or intermediate world 2 ; and as Genesis says that 
God made man in his own image, he is also compelled to 
say that man was originally made in the likeness of the Father. 
But " the Father " of Simon's intermediate world was, as we 
have seen, an hermaphrodite, or rather a male containing a 
female power within himself 3 . Hence man was originally both 
male and female, or in the words of the Great Announcement 

1 These " orders " of supernatural beings passed into orthodox Chris- 
tianity. Of. the e'lre $/)oVoi, cure KVptoTijTes, elre apx<*i, ire cov<riai of 
Coloss. i. 16, whence the " Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Princedoms, 
Powers " of Milton. The functions of all these different orders are set out 
by Dionysius the Areopagite so-called, and present a certain likeness to 
Simon's ideas as given in the text. See Lupton in Diet. Christian Biog. 
#.v Dionysius. 

2 That is Zeus, " Father of Gods and Men " ; not the Juppiter 
Optimus Maximus of Jater philosophy. 

a Possibly an allusion to the " rib " story of Genesis. 



vij Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 189 

" not simple, but double according to image and resemblance 1 ." 
But this was clearly not the man of this world as we know him, 
but the Heavenly or Archetypal Man who remained in the world 
above ours, and was, as Philo held, a man-woman 2 . How did 
Simon account for the separation of the sexes, and its influence 
upon subsequent humanity ? 

The answer to this question involves Simon's ideas as to 
the cause of evil in this world and the means by which man can 
escape from it. Man was, as we have seen, formed out of dust, 
but to make him, in the words of Genesis, " a living soul," it 
was necessary that he should be animated by the breath 
(Trvev/Ao) of the Divinity. So efficiently was this done that 
everyone, as Simon said, has within him potentially but not 
in act, " that which is blessed and incorruptible," that is to 
say, " He who standeth, hath stood and will stand," or in 
other words the " Father " of the intermediate world. " He 
it is," he goes on to say, " who stood above in the Unbegotten 
Power, who stands below, coming into being by reflection (ev 
eltc6vi) in the rush of the waters, and will stand above by the 
side of the blessed and Unbegotten Power if he should receive 
reflection or image (shv et-eitcovio-Of)) 5 " For " there are three 
who stand, and unless there are three aeons that stand, the 
unbegotten one, who according to them [Qy. the Hebrews ?] 
was borne over the face of the water, is not in her proper place 
in the universe (ov /cofffAelrcu)*. The which unbegotten one is 
fashioned by resemblance as perfect and heavenly, but becomes, 
in regard to Thought alone, inferior to the Unbegotten Power." 
This Unbegotten Power, he goes on to say in words that remind 
one of several different myths 5 , is the " One power cloven in twain 

1 ovx &rr\ovv, aXXa StTrXow /car* cfcoi/a /cat Ka$ n (5/iouo*u>. Hippolytus, 
Bk vi. c. 1, 14, p. 253, Cruice. 

2 So Philo, Legg. Alleg&r. m. p. 1089, Mangey; Quis rer. divin. 
p. 503 id. Cf . DaUinger, Jud. und Heid. Eng. ed. n. p. 430. 

a Hippolytus, Bk vi. c. 1, 17, p. 259, Cruice. 

4 See last note. 

5 So lacchos is at once the father, son, and spouse of Persephone. 
Horus is by his identification with Osiris in like manner the son, spouse 
and brother of Isis. The seeking and finding seems to he an allusion to 
this last pair. Cf. P.S.B.A. 1914, p. 93. 



190 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

above and Tbelow, who gives birth to itself, increases itself, seeks 
itself, finds itself, being its own mother, its own father, its own 
sister, its own spouse (cnifvyo?), its own daughter, its own son, a 
mother-father [and is] one, being the root of all the universes 1 ." 
It was the Thought of this Power who was charged with bringing 
the Divine Spark to this world ; but apparently, while she was 
brooding over the face of the waters, she was seized by the 
angels and authorities whom she had produced, " through 
motives of jealousy, because they were unwilling to be looked 
upon as the progeny of any other being 2 ." These words are 
put into the mouth of Simon by Irenaeus, who goes on to say 
that Thought was thus prevented from returning to the Father 
and was shut up in a human body. At this point, the account 
of Irenaeus agrees with that of the Philosophumena which 
narrates that (according to Simon) the world-making angels 
caused Thought (Ennoia) to enter one body after another, 
including that of Helen of Troy (causa teterrima belli), until she 
finally entered into the body of Simon's companion Helena 
whom he found in a brothel at Tyre 3 . Hippolytus says, 
however, that Simon made up this part of the story out of 
shame as regards his disciples 4 in order to explain his company- 
ing with Helena, and it may be noticed that he nowhere quotes 
the Great Announcement in its support 5 . Epiphanius, who seems 



1 Hippolytus, Bk vi. c. 1, 17, p. 259, Cruice. For the 

of the text it is necessary to read prjTpoTrdrvp unless we are to believe 
that the author is here repeating without rhyme or reason the state- 
ment already made in the same sentence that the power he is describing 
is its own mother and its own father. The expression jjnjrpairdr&p is 
found in an address to Zeus attributed to Orpheus and quoted by Clement 
of Alexandria, Strom. Bk v. c. 14. Of. Ergs. 238, 239 of Abel's OrpMca. He 
remarks concerning it that, by this wTpoinvr&p, Orpheus meant not only 
birth from the Mi) <#i/, but also "gave occasion to those who bring in the 
emanations and perhaps imagine a spouse of God," which gives some 
colour to the surmise that Clement may have been acquainted with Simon's 
writings. 

2 Irenaeus, Bk I. c. 16, 2, p. 192, Harvey, A similar motive was 
assigned by the Orphics for the murder of the infant Dionysos by the Titans* 

8 Hippolytus, Bk I. c. 16, 19, pp. 263, 264, Cruice. 

4 TOVS pafyras alftovpevos TOVTOV rbv JJLV&OV eTrXacrei', foe. tit. 

s See ibid , p. 264, Cruice. 



TI] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 191 

to have used the same documents as Irenaeus, gives a different 
reason for the conduct of the world-making angels from that of 
Irenaeus, and makes out that they were seduced by the beauty of 
"Epinoia," as he calls Ennoia or Thought, the female aeon who 
had come down, and detained her below out of sensual desire 1 . 
Both Irenaeus and Epiphanius are agreed that Simon in some 
way " redeemed " Helena, although they do not say in what 
way, and Hippolytus declares that Simon having purified 
Helena, in like manner brought salvation to men by his own 
discernment 2 . Why Simon should thus have power of salvation 
he does not explain directly, but he, Irenaeus, and Epiphanius 
alike tell us, by what seems to be a wilful or unconscious 
misinterpretation of the account in the New Testament 3 , that 
Simon gave himself out as the Supreme God, who, seeing that 
the angels mismanaged this world from their desire for rule, 
came here to put it right and descended through the different 
worlds, changing his shape in each to accord with that of the 
rulers therein, until he appeared here as man, " although he was 
not a man 4 ." Hippolytus further says, as does Irenaeus, that 

1 Epiphanius, op. cit. Bk I., Haer. xxi. c. 11 (p. 125 of vol. n. pt i. of 
Oohler). Probably this idea is a mere echo of the story in Genesis vi. 2, 
of the " sons of God " being captivated by the " daughters of men," which 
is much insisted on in the Enochian literature. Of. Cumont, Beckerches 
sur le Manickdisme; La Seduction des Arckontes or Chapter XIII, infra for 
later elaborations of the legend. 

2 TJ)V $ c EXeV?]v XvrpcocrajLicvo?, ovrcas rots dvdp&irois (TGDrrjpiav Trapecr^e 
dta rrjs Iftias GTnyv&veGOS. Se note 3 p. 190, supra. The eiriyvcdcns of the 
text seems to indicate that Simon discovered the way of salvation not by 
any revelation from a higher power, but by his own intelligence and 
examination. Of. what he says (Hippolytus, Phil. Bk vi. c. 16, p. 256, 
Cruice) about the knowledge of Gentile writings being sufficient for the 



3 Acts viii. 9, 10, only says that Simon bewitched the people of Samaria, 
giving himself out to be some great one (\&y&v elvai nva eavrov peyav) ; 
and that it was the people who said of him : " This man is the so-called 
great power of God " (Qfiros eo-riv rj Swa^ts TOV 6*ov 17 KoXov^evri pfydXrj). 
H was therefore only in the same position as Paul and Barnabas 
in Phrygia when they were hailed by the populace as Zeus and Hermes 
respectively. Of. Acts xiv. 12. 

4 Irenaeus, Bk I. c. 16, 2 ? p. 193, Harvey ; Epiphanius as in n. 1 
supra. This episode of the Saviour changing his form so as not to be 



192 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

Simon was alleged " to suffer in Judaea in the likeness of Jesus, 
although in appearance only, and to have appeared to the Jews 
as Son, to the Samaritans as Father, and to the other nations as 
the Holy Spirit 1 ." His death he accounts for by the story, 
found nowhere else in post-Christian literature, that at some 
place, the name of which has slipped out of the text of the 
PTiilosophumena, Simon 

" taught sitting under a plane-tree. Moreover, exposure being at 
hand through long delay, he said that if he were buried alive he would 
rise again the third day. And a grave having been dug by his orders 
by his disciples, he directed that he should be buried. His disciples 
did what he commanded, but he remained there to this day. For he 
was not Christ 2 ." 

In all this account, Hippolytus gives an entirely different 
account from that of the Clementines, with the manifest purpose 
of holding Simon up to obloquy as one of the " false Christs " 
predicted in the New Testament. It is obvious also that, so 
far from giving us Simon's pre-Christian teaching, he is here 

recognized by the powers of the heavens through which he passes on his 
way to earth, is a favourite one in the post-Christian Apocryphal literature. 
Of. R. H. Charles, The Ascension of Isaiah, p. 62. In the Pistis Sophia (for 
which see Chapter X, infra), Jesus in like manner changes His appearance in 
each heaven on His descent to earth. When He returns in His proper shape 
the spirits in every " place " into which He enters fling themselves on their 
faces and cry : " How did the Lord of the Universe change himself, so that 
we knew him not ? " : see p. 21 Copt, et al The " Docetic " theory which 
made the earthly body of Jesus a phantasm or illusion appears again in 
the heresy of the Valentinians and elsewhere. See Chapter IX, infra. 

1 Hippolytus, loc. cit. p. 265, Cruice. 

2 Ibid. 20, p. 267, Cruice. The story here told is in direct con- 
tradiction to the received tradition of the Church, that Simon met his 
death when attempting to fly heavenward before the Emperor Nero. That 
given in the text seems to be taken from the doings of some Indian Yogi, 
and the idea of Simon teaching " sitting under a plane tree " is distinctly 
Buddhistic. It is mentioned by no other writer than Hippolytus ; but 
Justin Martyr (First Apolog. c. 26} says that he persuaded his followers that 
he would never die, and that some in Justin's day still believed this. A 
sort of echo of it appears in the Acts of Peter and Paul, whore it is said that 
the body of Simon after being dashed to pieces was kept by the Emperor 
Nero for three days " to see whether he would rise again." 



vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 193 

handing down a garbled account of some tradition of the 
heresiar cli's disciples after Ms death. 

That the stories told by the Fathers, except when they are 
quoting immediately from the Great Announcement, are not a 
trustworthy account of Simon's doctrines is evident from their 
manifest inconsistency. If Simon's disciples believed, as Hip- 
polytus says, in the lawfulness of promiscuous intercourse, why 
should he feel called upon to justify to them by an artifice his 
connection with Helena ? If, too, Simon, or the Supreme 
Being in his likeness, came down from the highest heaven to 
earth for the sake of redeeming his spouse Epinoia there held 
captive, why did he not return with her when recovered, and 
for what purpose did he simulate death in Judaea ? Nor is 
there any plausible reason assigned for the angels' detention 
of Epinoia on earth by Hippolytus, which he attributes, like 
Irenaeus before him, to jealousy and the desire for rule, any 
more than by Epiphanius, who will have it to be caused 
by their concupiscence a story probably derived from the 
account of the Watchers in the Book of Enoch. Hippolytus 
makes Epinoia come to earth to establish, instead of taking 
away, the rule of the angels, who were by his account her own 
progeny ; and if the angels were, as Epiphanius says, inflamed 
with love for her, the last thing they would be likely to do 
would be to transform her out of her first and heavenly shape, 
and finally place her in a brothel as they are said to have 
done with Helena, Simon's mistress. 

The key to Simon's theory on the connexion between the 
salvation of mankind and its division into sexes is probably 
to be found in a paragraph in the Philosophumena in which 
Hippolytus seems to quote directly from the Great Announce- 
ment : 

" And because," he says, " the beginning of the generation of 
things which are begotten 1 is from fire, he [Simon] devises (/caravoei) 
a certain similar figure. Generation of all such things exists, [and] 
the beginning of the desire of generation comes from fire. So, for 
example, to desire changeable generation is called being inflamed 

1 drr6 rrvpbs TJ cipxn T *}* yeveareas ecrri T>V 
L. 



194 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

with love. But the fire, which is one, undergoes two changes. In 
the man/' he says, " the blood which is hot and yellow as typifying 
fire is changed into seed ; but in the woman, the self-same blood is 
changed into milk 1 . And the [result of the ?] change of the masculine 
blood is begetting ; but the [result of the ?] change of the feminine, 
the nourishment of that which is begotten 2 . This," he says, "is the 
flaming sword turning both ways to guard the way to the Tree of 
Life. For the blood turns into seed and milk, and that power 
becomes [at once] mother and father of the things which are born, 
and the increase of those which are" nursed, having no need of any 
external help and being sufficient unto itself. The Tree of Life," he 
says, "is guarded by the flaming sword turning both ways, as we have 
said, [and] the seventh power which contains all things, and which 
is stored up in the six powers, [comes forth ?] from the sword. For, 
if the flaming sword did not turn both ways, that beautiful tree would 
be corrupted and destroyed. But if the Word which is stored up 
potentially in them (the six powers), being the lord of the proper 
place, is turned into seed and milk, within it is born the Word of 
souls, beginning from the smallest spark, which will be magnified 
and will increase and will become a boundless power, unchangeable 
in the unchanging aeon, and it is born no more until [it reaches 1] 
the boundless aeon 8 ." 

1 Clement of Alexandria (Paedagogus, Bk I. c. 6) says practically the 
same thing. 

2 Kai yiVerat f) TOV appevos rponr^ yevGcrtS' T) Se rrjs 6r)\*ias rpovrfjj rpo<f)7} 
rov ytwa^vto. Note the curious jingle between rpoTrrj and rpoc^j?, yevecns 
and yvv<&p,va>. 

* Hippolytus, Bk vi. a 1, 17, pp. 259, 260, Ouice. That this 
refers to the conjunction of man with his twin-soul or affinity is certain 
irom Hippolytus' former quotation from the Apopha&is, that man was 
made by God ovx &7r\ovv, a\\a 8i7r\ovv KO.T iK.6va KOL K.a& o/xoiaxrti/ " not 
single, but two-fold according to copy and resemblance " : and that he 
will " perish with the world " unless he be made into the likeness of the 
Spirit who was borne upon the face of the waters, and who was, like that 
of which it was the reflection, androgyne (Hippolytus, op. Git. Bk vi. c. 1, 
p. 253, Cruice). "But if he be made into this likeness," Hippolytus 
continues, " and is born from an indivisible point as it is written in the 
ApophaMs, that which is small will become great. And that which is 
great will exist in the boundless and incorruptible aeon, which will not be 
born again," Besides the idea of the indivisible point, which we shall meet 
with again in the Bruce Papyrus (for which see Chapter X, infra), it seems 



vi] Pre-Christian G-nosties: Simon Magus 195 

The meaning of this very complicated and confused imagery 
which we may be sure Hippolytus has purposely made as 
obscure and ridiculous as possible seems to be this. In the 
two superior or heavenly worlds which we have called the primal 
and the second, the "roots" are male and female after the 
model of the Supreme Being. But this only means that the 
female is the external manifestation of the male, within whom 
she has at one time been contained. No thought of sex, as 
we understand it, enters into their relations, and no progeny 
follows from their conjugation, the lower world coming into 
life after the pattern of the upper by an impulse which, although 
due in the first instance to the male, is translated into action 
by the female member of the first syzygy. But with our 
universe and the appearance of man, a change in the system 
takes place. Although our world, constituted after the heavenly 
model, contains the three pairs, Heaven and Earth, Sun and 
Moon, Air and Water, and is animated by the breath of life 
brought from above by Bpinoia or Ennoia, man is formed 
from previously-existing matter and is therefore largely made 
up of an element hostile or repugnant to God. Lest the Divine 
spark within him should free itself from matter and return to 
the world above, each human soul has been divided, as Plato 
tells us in the Symposium*, and the two parts placed in different 
bodies so that the male is imperfect without the female and the 
female without the male, and the soul can make no effort to 
raise itself in the world of being until it meets and is conjoined 
with its affinity. This is probably in Simon's view the device 

evident that Simon was here teaching that those who find their twin-souls 
will rise in the scale of being and thus escape the cycle of changing exis- 
tences dreaded by the Orphics (see Chapter IV, supra). An explanation of 
the metaphor of the flaming sword is suggested later. See note 3 on p. 67 
of vol. rt, infra. 

1 Plato, Symposium, co. 17, 18. Diotima later on in the same Dialogue 
says that it is an old story that those who are in love are seeking their 
lost half. In one of the documents of the Pistis Sophia, it is said that 
" the servants of the Sphere of Destiny " after making the soul of man, 
divide it into two parts, and give one part to a man and another to a woman 
who are then bound to come together (no matter how far apart they may 
be) and to unite, when a new soul is the result (Pistis Sophia, p. 346, 
Copt.). 

132 



196 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH. 

of the angels, who have brought it about, according to Hippo- 
lytus, in order that Epinoia, the mother of life, may remain 
longer in the world and therefore prolong their rule 1 . But they 
are defeated by the Divine arrangement, which compels the 
two parts of the soul, after having once entered upon the round 
of mutable generation (^ ^ra^rjrr] yevecrw}, to change into one 
body after another according to the Orphic theory of trans- 
migration until each meets with its twin. Thus did the soul 
of Helen of Troy pass from one body into another until in 
the shape of Helena of Tyre it met with its own affinity in the 
body of Simon. Then it became again bisexual after the image 
of the boundless power to which it would again rise. Thus 
must it be with all mankind until all the souls are thus dis- 
entangled from matter 2 . According to Hippolytus, this event 
is to coincide with the deliverance (Xi/cu?) of the world, which 
seems to mean that it is to be freed from the rule of the angels. 
Irenaeus and Epiphanius twist this into the assertion that it 
is to be dissolved, while one of the later Gnostic documents 
says that it is to be " caught up," that is to say, reabsorbed 
by the world of which it is the image. But Hippolytus expressly 

1 So in the Pistis Sophia (p. 37, Copt.), Jesus says that the angels bound 
in the stars were, until His coming, in the habit of turning about and devour- 
ing their own matter, from which the souls of men and other animals were 
made, in order that their rule might endure the longer. 

2 Probably this is the meaning of the well-known saying of Jesus, 
generally quoted as coming from the Gospel according to tfie Egyptians, 
in answer to Salome's enquiry as to the time of the coming of His 
kingdom: "Grav TO rrjs alcrxvvrjs cvfivfia TraTqcryre, KCU orav yHwrjrai rh 
dvo Vj Kal TO e< OK TO etna; KCU r6 appcv fierce rrjs drjKetaSy otfre tippev 
oftre 6rj\v. " When ye tread under foot the garment of shame, 
and when the two shall be one, and the outside as the inside, and the 
male with the female, neither male nor female." See Hilgenfeld, N. T. 
extra Canon, recept., Lipsiae, 1884, vol. rv", p. 44- "The outside as 
the inside " may refer to the body and the rib which was in the Genesis 
story taken out of it. So the Pistis Sophia (p. 378, Copt.) speaks of 
* ' the Light of Lights, the places of Truth and Goodness, the place of 
the Holy of Holies, the place of the Holy of all Holies, the place in which 
there is neither male nor female, nor shape, but Light everlasting, unspeak- 
able." Hippolytus, op. cit. Bk v. c. 7, p. 146, Cruice, carrying this a step 
further, speaks of heaven as a place " where there is neither male nor 
female, but a new creature, a new man who is androgyne (tippyv 



YI] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 197 

includes this last doctrine among those invented by " those 
who imitated the error " of Simon Magus, or in other words by 
his successors 1 , and it need not therefore be here discussed. 
Whence Simon derived the doctrine of which we get glimpses 
in the Great Announcement will probably remain in doubt until 
we recover more fragments of that document. It appears 
likely, however, that he drew from a number of sources. Even 
in his day and after the wholesale depopulation of Samaria by 
the Syrians, Egyptians, and Jews, there must have remained 
many of the inhabitants who were lineal descendants of that 
mixed Semitic and Persian' stock who " feared the Lord and 
served brazen images," Hence his speculations may well have 
been influenced by the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism and 
Mazdeism, and some have thought that they can see in them 
traces of the primitive fire worship of the Magi 2 . Yet he 
need not have gone so far, for, as we have seen, his idea of fire 
as the origin of all things might well be taken from a too literal 
interpretation of a passage in the Samaritan Pentateuch. So 
with regard to the six cc roots/ 5 although they may have been 
mere copies of the Persian Amshaspands, they may also have 
come from a Pythagorean or Orphic source, since Athamas the 
Pythagorean is said to have taught that " there are four roots 
fire, water, air, earth ; for from these is the genesis of what is 
produced," and a verse of Empedocles is preserved which 
makes the same assertion 8 . The likeness of Simon's system 
to Egyptian and Alexandrian teaching is even closer. In 
ancient Egypt there was, as M. Maspero thinks, a well-defined 
system of correspondences including three worlds, each of which 
was a likeness or reflection of the preceding. At Hermopolis, 
too, there was worshipped an ogdoad or family of four pairs of 
gods and goddesses who on the same authority were merely 
attributes of one higher deity 4 . So in the tract de Iside et 
Osiride 5 , we are told that genesis or coming into being is the 
image or reflection in matter of that which really exists, and 

1 Hippolytus, Bk 71. c. 1, 19, p. 266, Cruice ; Irenaeus, Bk i. c. 16, 
2, p. 194, Harvey ; Epiphardus, Haer. xxi. o. 2, p. 124, Oehler. 

2 Franck, Le Gfnost Sg. p. 212. 3 Clem. Alex. Strom, vi. o. 2. 
* Maspero, St. flgyptol n. pp. 187 and 385. 

5 de Is. et Os. cc. LHJ. LIV. and LVI. 



198 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [on. 

that Horus, who seems here to represent the perceptible world, 
is the elicdbv or image of the Z/OT?TO<? #007109 or ideal world, and 
is the child of this last world and matter. After all, there is 
little more in this than an extension of Plato's theory of ideas 
which are the paradigms or patterns of perceptible things : but 
as Simon, according to the Clementines 1 , had studied in Alex- 
andria he may well have acquired such a notion either from 
Plato's writings direct, or, as is more likely, from the Alexandrian 
religion of Serapis and Isis as set forth in the tract in question. 
Of the history of the Simonian sect, we know very little 
more than has been said. The Fathers accuse the Simonians 
of leading immoral lives, of teaching the advisability of pro- 
miscuous intercourse, and of being addicted to magic 2 . Irenaeus 
declares that they worshipped an image of Simon in the likeness 
of Jupiter, and another of Helena in the shape of Athena 3 , to 
which Hippolytus adds that they were exceedingly angry if 
any one ventured to call these statues either Simon or Helena 
and instantly -cast him forth of the sect as being ignorant of 
their mysteries 4 . Eusebius a very late witness adds to this 
that they worshipped these images with " prostrations and 
incense and sacrifices and libations 5 ," which taken with the 
other statements seems to show that the Simonians, or perhaps 
only the pre-Christian followers of Simon, really took part in 
the worship of the Greek gods Zeus and Athena, possibly by 
way of complaisance with the Greek and Roman rulers of 
Samaria, and that the likening of their statues to Simon and 
Helena was only the patristic gloss on the fact. Bpiphanius goes 
further and attributes to them " mysteries of iniquity " and 
secret and obscene rites, including the filthy parody of the 
Eucharist depicted by the late J. K. Huysmans in his novel 
of id-JBas 6 . But this also was an accusation common to the 
adherents and opponents of Christianity at the time he wrote. 

1 Clem. Hem. u. c. 22. 

2 Irenaeus, Bk I. c. 16, 3, p. 194, Harvey; Hippolytus, op. cU. 
Bk VI. o. 1, 20, p. 266, Cruice. 

8 Irenaeus and Hippolytas where last quoted* 

4 Hippolytus where last quoted. 

8 Eusebius, Hist. IficcL Bk u. c. 13. 

8 Epiph. Haer. XXL c. 4 (p. 125, vol n. pt i., Oehler). 



vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 199 

He also says that their sacrifices were offered to " the Father 
of the Universes " (r&v oX&>z>) through the rulers and authorities 1 , 
and that they thought that the God of the Jews was one of the 
angels in this lower universe who created man and divided the 
nations among them by lot 2 , an idea of which there is a trace 
in the Book of Daniel 3 . But it is plain that Epiphanius, in his 
desire to prove that Simon is the parent of all subsequent 
heresy, is here mixing together the opinions of different Gnostic 
sects with a result inconsistent even in his own eyes. That the 
later Simonians had secret rites after the manner of those 
described by Lucian in the case of Alexander of Abonoteichos 4 
is likely enough, but rests on no real proof 5 . 

Of the extent and persistence of the religion set on foot by 
Simon we have some few indications, although these, too, hardly 
agree with one another. Irenaeus declares that he was succeeded 
in the leadership of the sect by Menander 6 , another Samaritan, 
and this is confirmed by Epiphanius, Philaster, and all the 
lesser writers on heresy down to and including Eusebius 7 . 
Although there seems nothing new in the doctrine which they 
assign to Menander, it is very probable that, after Simon's 
death, the tenets of the sect underwent a good deal of modifica- 
tion. According to Theodoret, the Simonians spread chiefly in 
Syria, Phrygia, and Eome 8 . Justin Martyr, writing in the reign 
of Antoninus Pius, speaks of their school as still existing ap- 
parently in Borne 9 . Origen, in the following reign, says indeed 

1 See last note. 

2 Epiph. Haer. xxiv. c. 1, p. 145, Oehler. It is here attributed to 
Basilides, but Epiphanius has before said that this last borrowed his ideas 
from " Simon and Satornilus." 

8 Dan. x. 13. 

4 Lucian, Pseudomantis, passim. 

6 Epiphanius says that Simon taught none could be saved unless he 
learned [Simon's] system of initiation (ftucrrayooyta). See Epiph. Haer. 
xxi. c. 4, p. 127, Oehler. 

6 Irenaeus, Bk i. c. 17, p. 195, Harvey. 

7 Epiph. Haer. xxn, p. 133, Oehler ; Eusebius, Hist. Mcd. Bk iru c. 26. 
Of. Justin Martyr, First Apol. c. 26. Schmiedel, s.v. Simon Magus in 

. Bill, says the exact contrary a curious slip. 

8 Theodoret, Haer. lab. i. 1. 

9 See note "7 supra. 



200 Pre-Christian (Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH 

in Ms tract against Celsus that there were no Simonians to be 
found anywhere throughout the world 1 ; but he was probably 
mistaken in this, as Eusebius in the reign of Constantine speaks 
of them as still numerous, although forced to hide themselves 2 . 
After this, and so soon as the Church, now triumphant, began 
in her turn to persecute, they no doubt either became converted 
to Christianity or joined other sects. 

In these matters, as in many others concerning the Gnostics, 
the Fathers of the Church were badly informed. The Gfnostic 
indifference to outward forms of religion made it Very easy for 
any body of Gnostics to conceal themselves in time of persecu- 
tion 3 , and thus to resist in the most practical way any attempt 
to estimate their true strength, or the relations of the different 
sects to one another. Gnosticism was, as the Church was to find 
out later, a hydra, the heads of which when cut off renewed 
themselves with amazing rapidity. Moreover, the very essence 
of Gnosticism was secrecy for all but the initiated, and if we may 
judge from the words of the Great Announcement quoted above, 
the Simonians took abundant care when they committed any of 
their doctrines to writing that the result should be unintelligible 
without a good deal of previous instruction. But if the fragments 
quoted are, as seems fairly certain, the work either of Simon 
Magus himself or of some prominent and early member of his 
school, the Fathers were abundantly justified in regarding him 
as the source of all subsequent Gnosticism. The syncretic 
religion which they unfold seems to have been admirably 
adapted to catch those " barbarian " enquirers, of whom there 
were evidently many in the first years of our era, who were 
trying by might and main to reconcile the traditions of Judaism 
with the Greek learning and culture for the first time brought 
within their reach. The system of terribly forced interpreta- 
tion of the Jewish scriptures employed by the Simonians was 

1 Origen, cont* Celsus, Bk vi. c. 11. 

2 Eusebius, Hist, eccl Bk n. o. 13. 

3 Tertullian, Scorpiace, c. 1. Eusebius, J5T. J57. Bk n. o. 1, says, speaking 
of his own times, that those who follow Simon's most scoundrelly 
(fuap<orar?7v) heresy were baptized into the Church, and kept their own 
doctrines in secret till deterjted and expelled, d Origen, c. Oek. Bk VI. 
c. 11. 



vi] Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus 201 

probably their own invention, and would certainly never liave 
passed muster in a community possessed of a modicum of 
literary sense 1 ; yet it enabled them, as has been said, to turn 
their backs upon the plain meaning of the books of the Old 
Testament. By their doctrine of emanation, whether derived 
from Persian sources or not, they contrived, perhaps for the 
first time, to bridge the huge gulf fixed by the philosophy and 
physics of the time between their Supreme Being and the gross 
matter which was thought to exist independently of and in 
opposition to him ; while their scheme of redemption, like that 
of the Orphics from whom they apparently borrowed, went far, 
as they boasted, to rob death of its terrors. 

These features we find reproduced in the teachings of nearly 
every later sect and school into which we shall have to enquire, 
and although our information as to their doctrines is not exact 
enough to enable us to determine the extent of the obligations 
of all of them to the teaching of Simon, the chances are that in 
every case there was a more or less conscious borrowing. Nor 
did the influence of the Samaritan magus cease with the sup- 
pression of the many heresies which the Fathers declared to 
be inspired by him. His speculations as to the succession 
of heavens and of orders of heavenly beings passed into the 
teaching of the Church 2 and obtained too firm a footing there 
to be dislodged until the German Eeformation. The memory 
of them extended even beyond its pale, and while, in the vnth 
century of our era, they came to inspire such cosmology as is 
taught in the Koran, the system of Sephiroth or successive 

1 It was of course quite different from the Cabalistic methods, ridiculous 
as those were, of the Essenes and other Jews, from the acrostics of the 
Orphics, and from the allegories of Philo. With a touching belief in the 
verbal inspiration of the Pentateuch, Simon and his followers claimed that 
every word of it must be true and a revelation even when transferred into 
another context. Thus they claimed to teach obstetrics from geographical 
phrases. The only modern parallel is to be found among the Puritans of 
our own Civil War, who, as Sir Walter Scott wrote, wore accustomed to 
pervert the language of Scripture by adapting it to modern events, and 
kept a Bible lying on the Table of the House for reference as to the better 
conduct of its business. 

2 See J. Turmel, " L'Ang&blogie depuis le faux Denys FAreopagite," 
Mev. tfHist. et Litt. Eel Paris, t. iv. No. 3 (1898), pp. 219 jgg. 



202 Pre-Christian Gnostics: Simon Magus [OH.YI 

emanations of the Deity, which underlies the farrago of mystical 
nonsense called in the Middle Ages the Cabala of the Jews, is 
directly derived from them. It may even be said that the 
influence of Simon's doctrines is not even now extinct in Europe, 
for in the writings of Swedenborg, which still find exponents, 
many of his ideas seem to be revived. 

That Simon's system as described in the Great Announce- 
ment was the result either of deep philosophic speculation or 
of original thought can hardly be said. Its one novel feature 
was the rather clumsy fusion of the Orphic cosmogony with 
the Mosaic account of creation, which reads like a parody on 
Philo's well-thought-out doctrine. Philo was born, apparently, 
about 25 B.C., and was therefore in all probability a few years 
older than Simon, so that such a parody is not altogether 
impossible. One of the main differences between the two 
systems is that to the asceticism of Philo and the Essenes Simon 
opposed, not perhaps a recommendation to licence, but a 
theory making the union of the sexes part of the scheme for 
the redemption of mankind. By so doing, he probably mad 
a much stronger appeal to Samaritans and Jews alike than did 
the strict celibacy demanded by Orphics, Essenes, and the other 
pre-Christian Gnostics. It is probable also that he included in 
his propaganda some sort of thaumaturgy or wonder-working 
of the kind employed, according to Lucian, by Alexander of 
Abonoteichos and, according to Irenaeus, by the Jewish im- 
postor Marcus. Although the stories about this in the Clemen- 
tines are manifestly fiction, we cannot absolutely reject the 
universal testimony of the Fathers that Simon and Ms followers 
made use of incantations and magical arts, and these are 
probably the " sorceries " with which the writer of the Acts 
declares he bewitched the Samaritans. Charlatanism, or more 
or less conscious imposture of this kind, was rife, as will be 
presently shown, among the lower classes of Palestine in his 
day, and would agree well with the bombastic language of the 
extracts from the Great Announcement which Hippolytus has 
preserved for us. 

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